Ascendis Blog

Managing Pandemic Fatigue on Employees in a Virtual Setting

As we progress into 2021, we are approaching a full year into an international pandemic. In addition to considering the effects of the pandemic on our businesses, we also should consider the effects of fatigue on our employees who have been working remotely during this pandemic.

According to the National Safety Council, workplace fatigue costs employers approximately $136 billion every year in lost productivity. Fatigued worker productivity costs employers $1,200 to $3,100 per employee annually. For employees, 30% report averaging less than six hours of sleep per night, yet the needed average is seven to nine hours.

The National Safety Council identifies two kinds of workloads that play into these fatigue levels. 

  1. Physical load—including factors such as repetitive motions, forceful exertions, and activities requiring an awkward posture. These factors can be physically draining, and an extended amount of time repeating these factors can be exhausting. Employees on rotating shifts are particularly vulnerable because they cannot adapt their body clocks to an alternative sleep pattern.

  2. Mental load—irregular or excessive work hours, stress level demands of the work, and difficult coworker relationships. For global virtual teams whose members span across large geographic distances and time zones, it’s not uncommon for some team members to be awake in the middle of their night to participate in conference calls or perform tasks during other team members’ normal work hours.

These factors can lead to employees feeling stressed, overworked, or downright exhausted. Over time, employee fatigue can lead to lower productivity, mistakes and injuries. This has a substantial effect on the production levels of the organization as a whole, especially in (virtual) teams with high reliance, where the performance of one employee impacts the performance of other employees within the same team.

Here's a Tip:

Does your virtual workforce show signs of fatigue or low engagement? How is your level of fatigue when working virtually? Here are some techniques you can use to develop more engagement and collaboration.

  • Rotate team meeting times.
    Meetings should not always be scheduled at the convenience of one individual or group. Not only does this lower engagement, it leads to resentment among other team members who must always stay up late or awaken early.

  • Adjust schedules or tasks when possible.
    Apply realistic planning practices so that work products can be delivered on time without having to put undue pressure to meet deadlines. Allow for contingencies in the event things don’t go as planned. 

  • Communicate with team members about fatigue.
    Reinforce the importance of getting adequate rest. According to the National Safety Council chronic sleep-deprivation causes depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and other illnesses. More than 70 million suffer from a sleep disorder. Educate team members on how to avoid fatigue-related safety incidents.

  • Practice work flexibility.
    Look for ways you can leverage technologies that enable team members to work remotely more often. This enables members to engage and participate from a variety of locations and eases the transition from workplace to homeplace. An added benefit is that it provides opportunities to engage contract, younger and older members of the workforce who prefer to work part-time.

To learn more, contact the Ascendis Leadership Academy to take the Organizational Leadership Skills Profile. Please contact Sue Drake at for an overview of the Profile and ways in which it may be used in your organization.