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Coronavirus fatigue is spreading: How larger employers are addressing new cases of “COVID fatigue”

Jan 13, 2021
Empower Institute

When it comes to the COVID-19 crisis, more and more people are starting to feel blue and under the weather.

But it’s not just from the virus itself.

It’s called COVID fatigue — and it’s getting more serious every day as Americans continue to adjust to a new normal.1

Recently, representatives from Empower Retirement met virtually with different partners to gain deeper insight into how employers are building a positive environment for their employees amid the global pandemic. As Empower intelligence shows, many plan sponsors in the large, mega and nonprofit segment are prescribing workers with a heavy dose of care and communication to help them stay connected during this uncertain time. Conquering COVID fatigue begins with a strong support system.

Key findings include:

  • From “being emotionally drained” to “wearing a mask” to “going with the flow,” symptoms of COVID fatigue vary.
  • Clients are implementing creative measures to limit expenses and protect jobs.
  • Employers are turning to unique solutions, such as internal web portals and virtual coffee gatherings, to relieve COVID fatigue.
  • Most companies have adopted retirement-related provisions in the CARES Act, but action has been low.
  • Plan sponsors are relying on Empower for educational resources, like finanical webinars, online tools and advisor sessions.

So, what is COVID fatigue?

Fever, cough and shortness of breath remain some of the most prevalent symptoms of the novel coronavirus. But many individuals across the nation are also exhibiting frequent aches, pains and strains from COVID fatigue. The typical warning signs run the gamut as people are growing tired of being quarantined at home, fighting the fear of infection and adhering to a laundry list of safety protocols.2

Of course, employees had to adapt to a business model that is far from routine throughout 2020. Performing their roles from remote locations, using video software for team meetings and forfeiting in-person interaction with their colleagues are just a few of the obstacles workers have faced during the outbreak. Meanwhile, those obligated to report on-site must pass wellness checkups at entry, wear a face covering while on the clock and maintain proper social distancing from their peers.

Parents are also struggling to juggle hybrid school schedules while also fulfilling their professional responsibilities.

In addition, as referenced in the Empower Institute “Staying the course: Retirement savings in the age of COVID-19” research paper, coronavirus money headaches caused from COVID fatigue are worsening, too.

Higher-income households (above $100,000), for example, share an equal amount of concern for enduring both the health and economic impacts of the ongoing pandemic. Lower-income earners, however, worry more about bearing the potential fiscal fallout (67%) as opposed to contracting the illness (37%).3

After further examination, and through qualitative evaluation, Empower has learned that treating employees who are suffering from COVID fatigue requires a healthy balance of collaboration and compassion.

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1 UC Davis Health, “’COVID fatigue is hitting hard. Fighting it is hard, too, says UC Davis Health psychologist,” July 7, 2020.

2 Johns Hopkins Medicine, “How to Deal with Coronavirus Burnout and Pandemic Fatigue,” August 2020.

3 The Harris Poll, “Six Months That Changed America,” August 2020.

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