Ever felt like you’re on a constant treadmill at work that you just can’t seem to escape? You aren’t alone.
Constant workplace change can prevent us from achieving goals, enjoying a sense of accomplishment, meaning and purpose - especially when confronted with shifting strategies, goal posts and tasks. We can feel like we are in a continuous state of disorganisation and busy-ness that leads nowhere yet leaves little time for joy or connection with our workmates.
This feeling is what is known as "change fatigue" - the sense of apathy or resignation people experience when facing what they perceive as too much organisational change. Being overwhelmed, lacking the energy to tackle basic tasks, struggling to concentrate, an increase in interpersonal conflict, feelings of stress and anxiety, being overly cynical, sceptical, and apathetic are some of the main symptoms.
With so much change and the rapid pace expected in this market, it is no wonder change fatigue is a widespread reality facing many workers today. The good news is that we have steps we can take to refuel, prevent, manage and even start to enjoy change.
Back in the 1990’s leaders in charge of managing change were taught that change was something we needed to "overcome". And, that the best way to do so was to involve the team in the decisions and communicate, communicate, communicate. While there is the need for some communication, the more we talk about it, the more time out we take from the job, and the more we label change as a negative experience.
We know change is inevitable; it is here. If we aren't changing, the market around us is. More important than talking about it, is how we build resilience, resourcefulness, tools, processes and coping strategies ourselves so that we can impart that knowledge on our teams.
However, if you just can't stomach another meeting talking about the same tasks or you have no creative energy left reframing the same problem. Perhaps it is time to ask yourself whether the issue isn't change itself or whether it may be time for you to consider a change in role. Perhaps there is another opportunity in the same company that may suit you better at this time that will energise and excite you.
Before making any big decisions, though, maybe a little time out is in order.
When we are in a changing environment, it is not uncommon to work longer hours at a level of intensity that is unsustainable. Research has found that when we work long hours for some time, we are poorer at problem-solving, being creative and innovative.
By taking some time out to recharge, you short-circuit potentially unhealthy work patterns, reduce stress, connect with loved ones, and have new experiences - all of which make you a happier, healthier more productive team member on your return.
A holiday doesn’t have to be a long break. A few mini weekend breaks can be enough to get some breathing space, rest, recharge and re-evaluate.
We all know that better sleep, diet, and exercise makes us perform better; however, when you are feeling overwhelmed, making time for these activities is merely adding more pressure for the to-do list. In fact, in times of stress, we tend to trade off our sleep, be too tired to exercise and make poor meal choices out of convenience or because we succumb to stress-cravings.
As a result, many of us push self-care down the priority list until work task x, y and z are completed - a sprint to the finish line in the hope of some relief. In reality, in rapidly changing environments, these tasks may never end up completed, and others get added, creating a vicious cycle.
A great time to make self-care a priority is right after a holiday because you have already broken the cycle by taking a break from work. Next is to create a non-negotiable schedule in your diary to enjoy a healthy meal, some movement, relaxation and settle into a regular sleep routine.
4. Rethink your work
So, you have had a break, settled into your new balanced routine, and now it is time to rethink your work. Developing a three-year strategic plan with a detailed Gantt chart and assignment of tasks and deadlines is unlike ever to be achieved without change and will be merely setting you up for change fatigue.
Taking an Agile approach where you have an overarching goal that starts with bite-sized deliverables is far more achievable and satisfying. If things change within a week, it is put down to learning, if they don't change and a milestone is achieved then there is a sense of accomplishment and the team moves to the next task.
This sense of accomplishment creates a great sense of comradery, team spirit, connectedness, purpose and achievement, which are all vital elements that serve to refuel us when we have been drained by change.
5. Reflect on achievements
If you are taking a more Agile approach, it is very easy to move on to the tasks for the next week without looking back on how far you have come, so it is essential to take time out to celebrate your achievements.
This simple step creates a sense of accomplishment, reminds us that our efforts are worthwhile and ultimately makes our jobs more satisfying. Further success breeds success, so when we feel like we are on a winning streak that positive energy is likely to grow.
Re-living positive experiences and achievements as we celebrate, also has positive effects on our mental wellbeing – helping foster resilience and helping us be more prepared when a new challenge arises.
6. Reach out
You are starting to get back that zest for work, are celebrating small wins, and your overall mental resolve is on the way up. Now is the time to consciously reach out and renew connections with people in your network.
When we are drained by change, it is common to focus on tasks rather than people, so meaningful work relationships can fall by the wayside. Now is the time to invest time in connecting with others.
It is very important at this stage to choose the right people to connect with. Being surrounded by people
whose energy brightens your day will re-energise you and give you a more positive outlook. If you spend too much time with those whose energy casts a shadow, it could be easy to slip into a negative spiral.
By creating meaningful connections, you will feel a stronger sense of belonging to your professional community, learn from others, gain diverse opinions and experience more joy – all essential ingredients for mental wellbeing.
Each day make a conscious effort to observe moments for which you are grateful, which will start to reframe you thinking patterns. Whether it be a team member who baked some cookies, a funny anecdote from a colleague, a situation where the team bonded together and achieved something great, or merely crossing one thing off your to-do list.
Studies of gratitude at work link the practice to more positive emotions, less stress and fewer health complaints, a greater sense that we can achieve our goals, fewer sick days, and higher satisfaction with our jobs.
Further, making a conscious effort to see the joy that is around, you can mean you start to notice it more often – which has a mental ripple effect keeping your energy levels higher.
8. Recharge outside of work
If you were to eat chocolate all day then by dinner time the last thing you would feel like is chocolate. The same goes for work. Even when things are going great, it is important to take a break and recharge outside work.
For some, a good night out with friends and social interaction is just what they need to feel recharged. For others, some time alone with a glass of wine and good book holds more appeal. It is crucial to identify how you recharge outside work and reward yourself from time to time.
What you do for yourself outside of work can have an immense impact on how well you deal with change fatigue.
1. Change fatigue is a real phenomenon and can lead to feelings of being burnt out and drained. Recognising the symptoms is the first step to refuelling.
2. Retreat by taking a mini-break or time out to simply recharge.
3. Reprioritise self-care including diet, exercise and sleep.
4. Rethink your work by breaking it into bite-sized, achievable pieces.
5. Recognise your achievements, celebrate the wins.
6. Reach out to others, get connected with other like-minded energising people.
7. Reframe your day so that you are hard-wired to look for moments of positivity.
8. Recharge outside of work, so you are looking forward to getting back to work.
Adopting the above practices doesn’t mean you won’t experience moments of being overwhelmed in the face of relentless change. The key is to build your resilience so that when moments of change fatigue start to come creeping in, you are well equipped to handle them in your stride.
If you’re serious about building resilient, high performing team that are well equipped and adept at coping with change, contact a recruitment agency like Trojan Recruitment Group and get advice from the experts in labour-hire, labour solutions, temp recruitment and contract staff.
Strategic Human Resource Management: An HR Professional's Toolkit by Karen Beaven