Corinne Zudonyi

A spreading pandemic closed our offices on March 19th. Almost six months later, we're all still working from home. Ours is like many businesses out there, trying to keep the virus from spreading and keep employees safe. But there are side effects to that level of responsibility.

Health officials are warning of a second pandemic: COVID Fatigue. People are tired of being cooped up, tired of being careful and they are tired of being scared. The result is that many are getting careless and tempers are on the rise. Businesses are opening prematurely. Proper hand hygiene is on the decline. And the debate over whether to wear masks rages on.

We all want to go back to how things were before the pandemic, but the reality is, abnormal is the new normal and uncertainty is leading to intense and long-term stress. What's worse is that many activities individuals used to cope with stress previously are currently off limits. Distributors might have noticed their staff and/or clients are far less optimistic and more quick to frustration.

Within your own operations, make sure to do mental health checks with staff. Experts emphasize the benefits of open and ongoing communication regarding struggles, and the importance of exercise (releasing endorphins releases stress). Being present validates a team approach so staff feels less lonely.

That sense of support should be extended to clients, as well. Make sure you are part of their team as they fight to reopen and prevent the spread of the virus. Offer to conduct hazard assessments that outline where and when to enforce PPE — and how to deal with those who won't cooperate. Help outline policies for social distancing and supply the signage to go with them. You might also consider stocking programs so handwashing products and chemicals are readily available.

Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

We as an industry can make great strides in the fight against this pandemic and we can lighten the load of those who are experiencing fatigue. We just need to stick together.