Reflect for a moment, and think back to two years ago. How about one year ago? What about just last week? How many changes have you experienced? Chances are that you’ve had to deal with a lot of change, particularly over the past couple of years.
The fact is that change is everywhere, from being given a new set of workplace responsibilities, to starting a new job, to being assigned a rushed project for work. It could be a change in your daily schedule or routine. You may be working from home for the first time or deciding to pack up and live out of a van for the foreseeable future. Regardless of the situation, we are constantly experiencing or are in some state of change.
Under normal circumstances, anyone can manage a certain amount of change without feeling overwhelmed. However, in this "changing" world (pun intended), the number of changes we are all experiencing is increasing. The pandemic alone has caused drastic, unexpected changes to the way we live.
That being said, there is a limit to how much change we can take. When that threshold is surpassed, we experience “change fatigue” or “change exhaustion.” This happens when we deal with a lot more change than we typically would in a set period.
While we all have varying capacities for change, specifically how well we adapt, overcome, or incorporate it in our lives, change at any level can be stressful and anxiety-inducing. What exactly is change fatigue?
Let’s take a deeper dive into organizational fatigue.
According to leadership expert Gwen Webber-McLeod, change fatigue or organizational fatigue is “a loss of focus, energy, and willingness in leaders and employees constantly impacted by organizational change.”1 Atlassian defines change exhaustion as the “resistance or passive resignation to organizational changes on the part of an employee.”2 This definition makes it especially important for individuals and companies to address.
Organizational fatigue is a reality, obstacle, and focal point that every business has to deal with. Today, it is as prevalent as ever; a Gartner study found that employees’ ability to deal with change is only half of what it was before the pandemic.3 It also turns out that day-to-day changes are more impactful than organization-wide shifts; for example changes within an employee’s company (such as being assigned a new manager) affected people 2.5 times more than high-level shifts like mergers.4
Whether macro or micro, any change can be overwhelming and take its toll on a workforce, leading to burnout, stress, frustration, mistrust, and even a lack of motivation or interest.
All these, in turn, can significantly cause damage on an organizational level and lead to decreased employee engagement, organizational commitment, and productivity. At the end of the day, change fatigue hurts a business’ growth and bottom line.
While change generally is part of running a business, change exhaustion can be controlled, mitigated, or lessened. Let’s find out how by first looking at some of its root causes within an organization.
Change exhaustion can be caused by too many things happening in a short period of time.Organizations can sometimes neglect to consider how much change—big or small—can affect their workforce. An overwhelming amount of changes can tire and burn out employees, not allowing them to prepare or adjust mentally. A company might not be aware of how it implements its change initiatives. Suppose change initiatives aren't rolled out in a way that has the workforce's well-being in mind. In that case, it could result in organizational fatigue and its many adverse effects.”
Organizations may not always have the luxury of ample time to implement and effectively communicate vital change initiatives. The lack of clear and proper communication amidst organizational changes can be a detriment to an employee's well-being. Organizations should strive to explicitly state the what, when, and why when implementing changes. Change fatigue can result from the workforce not being on the same page with the company's expectations.
Overcoming change fatigue can be challenging and may take some time. It is a process that requires assessment, strategy, and communication. Here are a handful of ways to overcome it.
First, take a step back and pause to acknowledge when a significant change in your organization is happening. Acknowledge the discomfort and confusion it may bring to the workforce and try to understand what causes them. Once you've pinpointed the source of your organizational fatigue, you can start to develop an effective plan to deal with it.
Make sure that everyone in your organization acknowledges and understands that things are going to change. Explain to them the what, when, and why of your company’s initiatives. Help them adopt a flexible mindset to deal with the hassle and frustration that comes with inevitable internal and external shifts.
Communication is key to mitigating change fatigue in the workplace. Listen to what employees have to say about the change initiatives. Know what they’re thinking. Be transparent and clear in your messaging. Be honest. Don’t be afraid to over-communicate. Strong and open communication proves that you value their well-being, helping them build confidence and trust in the organization.
If the problem is that there are too many changes happening at once, try to focus on one thing at a time. Break down each change into manageable steps and work on them with full attention and detail. Dealing with change fatigue means helping the people in your organization feel less overwhelmed and more in control.
Last but not least, ensure that everyone takes necessary breaks or leaves if needed. Giving people time to relax mentally and physically will help reduce stress levels and allow them to approach and adapt to each change with fresh energy.
Remember that not all change has to be exhausting! Finding ways to incorporate positive changes into a routine works as well. For example, if your company is implementing new software to simplify your workflow, take some time beforehand to learn about its potential benefits. Taking an active role and mindset in making a positive change can help offset some of the negative feelings and effects associated with change exhaustion.
For any organization to grow, it will need to undergo change and inevitably, change fatigue. Finding a proven and equipped partner to help you deal with all these challenges is crucial.
Fortunately, you have Us.Recognized by the Everest Group as the World’s Fastest Business Process (outsourcing) Service Provider, TaskUs is more than equipped to manage organizational change. We have brought positive change within and outside our organization by delivering world-class solutions, increasing client satisfaction, and enhancing employee experiences for over a decade in the outsourcing industry.