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How to Combat Employee Fatigue

Posted by EHS Insight Staff on October 4, 2018 at 12:50 PM

Employee fatigue or straight burnout can happen to anyone, regardless of how much they love their job. But it’s not just a matter of getting bored on the job. Employee fatigue can have serious consequences on productivity, profits, and the well-being of both the employee and company.

What Is Employee Fatigue?

Employee fatigue can occur for a variety of reasons: long work hours, working too many consecutive days, poor work conditions, working rotating hours, or conditions outside of the workplace, such as not getting enough sleep.

Regardless of how it occurs, companies can agree that employee fatigue isn’t safe or desirable in the workplace. Some studies have found that 13% of workplace incidents are attributed to fatigue, while 43% of employees say they feel too tired to work safely.

Other studies compare the effects of too little sleep to the same effects caused by alcohol. For example, 17 hours of being awake is the equivalent of a blood alcohol content of 0.05. Being awake for 21 straight hours is like a 0.08 BAC, while 24-25 hours is the equivalent to 0.10 or more. You wouldn’t let your employees work under the influence of alcohol, but many don’t realize that working with too little sleep can be just as dangerous.

There are two types of fatigue: chronic and acute.

In chronic fatigue, a person feels constantly and severely tired. Things like sleep and time off do little or nothing to remedy the issue. Acute fatigue is a little easier to combat. The effects are usually brought on by periods of hard mental or physical work, but symptoms are short-lived and can be relieved with relaxation or sleep.

Signs to Look For

Ideally, employees will be able to prevent employee fatigue, but it’s not always possible, especially if the fatigue is caused by external factors rather than those at the workplace.

Signs to look for include the following:

  • Visible tiredness (yawning, sluggishness, drooping eyes)
  • Irritability
  • Reduced alertness
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to concentrate or recall details
  • Forgetfulness
  • Digestive issues
  • Susceptible to illness

The sooner you can recognize these signs, the better able you can combat them before they worsen.

How Companies Can Combat or Prevent Burnout

Employers aren’t powerless when it comes to preventing employee fatigue, regardless of how it occurs. Use these best practices to help your workers stay healthy and adequately rested, for your best interest and theirs:

Schedule Appropriately

Quotas and production goals aren’t achievable if an employee becomes injured on the job due to fatigue. It’s important to put your employees’ needs first to ensure they’ll be able to work when you really need them to.

Optimize schedules so that employees have reliable shifts. Avoid “swing shifts”, long shifts, and excessive overtime whenever possible. Also, make sure employees have enough time to recover between shifts. Letting employees choose their shifts can help them do what’s best for their needs.

Promote Sleep Health

Health and safety training can go far beyond what employees experience at work. Consider offering tips, insight, and training on sleep health, or somehow integrating it into your EHS program.

Making good sleep habits part of your company safety culture can go a long way. Some companies offer nap rooms for employees to refresh their minds. Others may offer schedule accommodations in the event of overtime or other changes to the schedule.

Recommend Ways to Avoid Burnout

If employees start to become burned out at work, recommending a few lifestyle changes can help:

  • Take a day off all technology
  • Change your bedtime
  • Reevaluate boundaries that prevent employees from working too much
  • Engage in physical activity or yoga to relax
  • Encourage exercise within the workplace
  • Emphasize the importance of work-life balance and help employees set attainable work-life goals

A little guidance can go a long way in inspiring employees to take control of their health and find ways to avoid burnout and fatigue at work.

Employee Fatigue Is a Serious Issue

It’s important you never brush off fatigue as being a part of life. As a society, we’re becoming increasingly busier at work and off the clock, but sleep should never be sacrificed to make room for our schedules.

The more you can help your employees to practice good habits, the better results you’ll earn for your company.

Topics: Workplace Health and Safety, Safety Management, Safety Tips

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