It goes without saying that the 2020-2021 holiday season was more different than any other holiday period in modern memory. Many of us had to spend our very first December holidays without extended family and friends, which meant not traveling to the usual destinations for Christmas and New Years, or experiencing the season’s normal festivities. For the past almost-year, the COVID-19 pandemic has made us all grow more accustomed to spending extensive time at home, but more recently there’s been an emotional toll that has certainly hit harder than ever over the holiday season. One that speaks to loss and isolation during a generally much happier time.

For many families in essential businesses, that toll has taken an especially larger effect this holiday season. In addition to the absence of loved ones this winter, employees who spent their holidays working overtime on their feet, pulling long shifts while fearing possible daily exposure to COVID-19 have been particularly struggling. As cases have soared throughout the U.S.’s second wave of the pandemic, the mental and physical cost has been damaging for employees in high-hazard industries such as manufacturing, warehousing/logistics, food processing and healthcare. Tack on this year’s unique holiday shopping that saw record-high online ordering compared to in-store retail, and the demand has been especially strenuous for essential employees in order-fulfilment work environments.

Take a closer look at employee health

As we wrap up the holiday rush, business leaders in these industries need to take a closer look at how our own employees responded under all the stresses thrown at us this year, in effort to move forward with a more prosperous 2021. Psychologically, this year’s holiday season overtime was particularly hard to push through for employees who had less excitement to look forward to than in previous years, and more COVID uncertainty at the helm. Long hours spent working in hospitals, plants or assembly lines over previous holiday seasons have taken on a more sombre tone this year when regular annual holiday parties and family plans were canceled amidst the pandemic.

Moreover, this new merge of general COVID-fatigue and seasonal winter blues simultaneously has created ripple effects on employees’ mental and physical well-beings. If we’re not careful, this could in turn directly affect productivity levels while at work.

So, how do we combat this dangerous new fatigue combination? While nobody can accurately predict how 2021 will go, the responsibility falls on employers to look out for the warning signs, and find solutions that benefit both employees and business-owners alike during an especially challenging time.

Employers should be constantly monitoring to make sure that their employees and their teams are equipped with enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), in order to keep them feeling safe, comfortable and productive on the job. A mask, face shield and gloves are all critical items for employees to mitigate the spread of COVID-19; however, wearing them all day without remembering to get fresh air or drink water could potentially lead to even more fatigue. It’s important to remind employees to take breaks outside where they can safely refuel with food, drink and a much-needed stretch. The use of signage and emails could help with this.

Another easy solution for essential workers across the manufacturing, healthcare and supply-chain industries are anti-fatigue insoles that will ease with standing and moving around for long periods of time. Foot comfort on the job is paramount for essential workers in these industries to continue pushing through long hours, or navigating any unexpected working hiccups. During an already uncertain year, businesses shouldn’t have to take any chances.

Without ergonomically efficient foot support, foot pain and fatigue can have lasting effects on the body and create harmful musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) – a disorder that employees working in high-hazard industries such as manufacturing, warehousing/logistics, food processing and healthcare are at a particular higher risk for. As the feet hold humans’ entire bodyweight, damage done to the foot on the job can leave permanent lifelong impacts. Arch support and shock absorption are the key components here; an employee who isn’t have the right foot support in fast-moving work environments could end up burning out much quicker from exhaustion, prolonged foot pain and overall fatigue.

Make an effort

As we move into the New Year and all of its uncertainties, it is imperative that we as employers make an effort to show our appreciation and support of our employees. To ensure a stronger productivity of our workforce, we need to show that we care. This includes reinforcing that our teams’ health and safety is at our very top of mind, and moreover providing our teams with the right PPE that helps them go through their days more comfortably. Businesses have the unique opportunity to start their employees off strong in 2021 by championing health and wellness. This means helping overworked employees find relief from their aching feet and tired bodies. 

For businesses in higher-risk industries, the need to invest in strong anti-fatigue solutions has never been more important. This year, let’s all make an effort to go that extra mile and show our employees how much we really care. As the world moves into this crucial time, a simple gesture of compassion goes a long way to lift spirits and keep morale high for our essential service workers.