8 Keys To Re-Engaging A Fatigued Workforce

Reading about how tired we are is fatiguing. So let’s try something different.

We’re built to want to be part of something that’s meaningful. We’re eager to learn. We love wrestling with a challenge. It’s in our nature and we can’t help it. So instead of focusing on how everyone is depleted, why not appeal to our better selves?

Here are things you can do to re-energize yourself and your team.

Fostering connectedness is a great antidote for fatigue

1. Make Meetings Energizing

Here’s an all-too-typical meeting: a leader doggedly works through a PowerPoint deck while a restless audience scrolls through social media, checks email, or stares vacantly at the slides.

How do you avoid this and make your meetings more dynamic? Make sure everyone participates!

  • Invite people to ask questions, and then elaborate on their answers.
  • Ask attendees to call on other participants to share insights.
  • Compliment people when they make an insightful observation.
  • Have designated people share best practices, then open it up for others to contribute their brilliance.
  • Put people in break-out rooms where they work on and create solutions to a current problem (Called Highly Paid Experts Activity.)

If you really want to engage people, ask, “What can we do that will put us out of business?” The purpose of this provocative question is to identify a real-work problem that perpetually pops up. Then have your team fix it. You can end the meeting by having all team members share their inspired ideas and then piloting the best solution.

2. Beat Meeting Fatigue

What to do if your team is inattentive?

Here’s an obvious solution: Hold shorter meetings. Schedule meetings of 20 instead of 30 minutes or 50 instead of 60 minutes. This will reduce cognitive overload and meeting fatigue.

You could also assign a different team member each week to run the meeting. They would be responsible for gathering agenda items and creating interactive exercises.

Here’s a different suggestion: stop the meeting and ask, “Is there anything we should start doing so we aren’t so drained? What should we continue doing? How can we make sure we’re serving customers and each other at the highest level? If you were running this meeting, what would you do to keep everyone engaged?”

You want to spark a courageous conversation. Your goal is to discover why your people are frustrated. Listen to their answers and weave their solutions into the fabric the workplace.

3. Hold Short, Weekly One-on-Ones

What? We are recommending another meeting?! One-on-ones are something different. Hear me out.

One-on-one meetings with your people are one of the most powerful tools a leader has to re-engage a fatigued workforce. They’re also one of the greatest gifts you can give someone—you are creating a reliable space where they set the agenda and share what’s on their mind. Another benefit? Since your people know they have this time coming up, they’ll contact you less often about the little things.

Your first job is to just listen. That’s easy to say—but hard to do. Our minds are so busy planning the next big thing that we often listen halfheartedly. What are people’s favorite three words to hear from you? Tell me more.

Here’s a common example of halfhearted listening: instead of focusing on what you were saying, your manager was scrolling through their phone. Now think of a time when you talked with a boss who leaned in, heard what you had to say, and even confided their frustrations and hopes. As the direct report, how much effort would you want to give to the manager who was preoccupied versus the one who genuinely cared?

Make one-on-ones with your people meaningful by asking these questions:

  • What’s most important for you to discuss today?
  • What would make your life easier here?
  • What is energizing to you? What would you like to do more of? What consistently drains you?
  • What can we do to make our team more effective?
  • What about your job makes you want to take the day off?

4. Foster Connectedness

Fostering connectedness is a great antidote for fatigue. We can get energy from being around other people. Leaders can create connection by building a culture where people get to know each other, celebrate successes, recognize accomplishments, and generously give praise.

One idea is do a round robin where people share the goals they are working on and you share why they are so important to the team and organization. This not only builds community, but fosters interdependence.

The business world has historically been a conservative place. But we are living through a unique time. We all need to be inclusive and welcome one another with open arms. People will thrive when you make them feel that they truly belong and introduce them to the amazing talents on their team.

5. Be Caring

Show others you care. Everyone has been affected by the pandemic—and everyone needs some compassion and support.

If someone looks frustrated, request they stay after the meeting and ask: “What’s going on with you? How can I help you? Do you need more direction on anything? How would you like me to support your ideas?”

Leaders can forget to do this when they’re under pressure—or worry they may create additional stress. But that’s not true. As a leader, your caring words will energize and engage.

6. Take Advantage of Emotional Contagiousness

Emotions are contagious. Here’s an example that proves it.

We all know what it’s like when that certain person walks into a room. You’re laughing with your colleagues, and all of a sudden, the energy is sucked right out of everyone. The part of the brain that recognizes and reacts to these kind of signals moves incredibly quickly and is observing all the time. So how we present ourselves is extremely important.

Each of us has to decide whether we want to be an energy vampire or an energizer. If you’ve read this far, I know you want to be an energizer.

Think about what energizes you. If you’re not sure, look for things that excite you when you talk, when you share, or when you hear an idea that piques your interest.

We need to acknowledge negative emotions so people can let them go, and also embed positive emotions by calling them out and “catching” their positivity. Energy follows focus: to create a high performing, energized team, be sure you are helping your people pay attention to what’s important.

7. Engage Online Audiences

Online meetings are a breeding ground for disengagement. People easily get bored staring at a screen, so they start multitasking or don’t pay attention. The fact is, people who are online need interactivity every two to three minutes to keep them focused.

Your challenge is to inspire your people to participate so they feel energized when they leave the meeting. A great way to generate interest is to ask “What was your biggest success this week?” After someone shares, ask them how they achieved it. By doing this, you are engaging and empowering speakers.

Chats, breakout rooms, and polls are other effective tactics for engaging virtual learners. A game/contest at the end of a meeting can add spice. You can create a crossword puzzle or hold an impromptu quiz show where your audience tries to stump top performers/leaders. And remember: repetition and engagement are needed if people are to transfer what they learned to the workplace.

8. Give the Spotlight to Your Top Performers

Have an employee who’s knocking it out of the park? Ask them to share with the team what they’re doing that helps them be so incredibly successful. Let them share their secret sauce.

When you do this, you’ll energize the person who gets to teach. You’ll also give your team a huge gift because they’ll learn how one of their peers is successfully tackling a challenge. Now all of your people will be energized because you have painted a picture of what a good job looks like and had someone show what to do to achieve it.

So there you have it: Lots of tips to fight pandemic fatigue.

We’re passing through extraordinarily difficult times, but we can still bring energy and vitality to the workplace. When you share the gift of connection and engagement with your people, you’ll inspire them and help them thrive.

The KenBlanchard Companies

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