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Fatigue Management: Lightening the Load

By November 2, 2020LTEN Focus On Training
INSIGHTS – Josh Bersin

Fatigue Management: Lightening the Load

Most of us are happy to increase workloads in an emergency like the pandemic, but we can’t carry on at that pace indefinitely.

Many of the best practices for dealing with the pandemic are coming from the military. The practice of distributed empowerment with centralized coordination is one such example that has applicability for virtually every business function.

Another example is the importance of fatigue management. Military studies have shown that chronic fatigue can have significant negative effects on military operations. For instance, a soldier carrying a 100-pound rucksack can manage the weight for a few days. But day after day, even the fittest soldiers start to break down physically and mentally.

The same concept applies to business. While most of us are happy to step up our game and increase our workloads in an emergency – like the pandemic – we can’t carry on at that pace indefinitely. We have to make sure we lighten the load on ourselves and on our teams so they can continue to be productive.

These are a few lessons I’ve learned from talking with leaders over the past weeks:

  • Reduce workload by clarifying goals. In our research on pandemic responses, we found that agile performance management directly contributes to success. Tell people “what not to do” and give them crystal clear goals.
  • Create cadence and recovery cycles. In the military, many people work in shifts – on for certain hours on consecutive days. In between is a few days off to rest and recover. Many of us don’t have such recovery cycles, especially now when there is so much work to be done. We must build recovery time into our schedules. Encourage your team to take time off on a Friday. Create a week of rest for everyone – or at least create email and meeting-free days. Reduce the length and frequency of meetings.
  • CEO-level focus is needed. Remember that fatigue is a problem that rests on the shoulders of senior leaders. If a manager doesn’t encourage people to rest and pace themselves, he or she will create more fatigue. Senior leaders must model and encourage rest.

One of the topics we are learning about as we research resilience is the importance of cadence. Everyone must have a sense of predictive cadence in order to manage through this pandemic. Times of stress and growth must be followed by rest and recovery.

I encourage all of us to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves – and our teams.

Here are a few tips that I try to practice myself:

  • Take time off to rest, walk and exercise every day. Stand up and walk around
  • Turn off the TV and stop following Twitter and other social media.
  • Take it slow. Don’t carry too heavy a load. You’ll get more done if you pace yourself.
  • If you’re a manager, help show people what “not to do.”
  • Turn off Zoom and shorten meetings to 15 minutes. Stop every meeting early.
  • Tell your team to take a week off and don’t check email! Your team members’ work will resume better than ever when they return.
  • Have some empathy for leadership. Our senior leaders are tired, too. Ask them how they’re doing and let them know you care.

We’re all in a marathon, not a sprint. Let’s pace ourselves and stay physically and mentally healthy.


Josh Bersin is an independent industry analyst and founder of Bersin™ by Deloitte. Contact him at



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The Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network ( is the only global 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization specializing in meeting the needs of life sciences learning professionals. LTEN shares the knowledge of industry leaders, provides insight into new technologies, offers innovative solutions and communities of practice that grow careers and organizational capabilities. Founded in 1971, LTEN has grown to more than 3,200 individual members who work in pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and diagnostic companies, and industry partners who support the life sciences training departments.

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