Fatigue in the workplace is a serious problem. Fatigued individuals are less productive, less focused, have more medical problems, are absent more often, and are more likely to be involved in a job-related safety incident. Fatigue management can be a relatively easy and inexpensive wellness initiative to help alleviate this problem among your employees.
Measuring and Managing Employee Fatigue
If you include fatigue and sleep disorders on a health risk assessment (HRA), you can use that information to help tailor an educational initiative. Likewise, you can administer an assessment specifically for sleep and fatigue. Based on the results of the assessment, consider implementing programs to address the problems you discovered.
- Offer employee educational materials to address the general issue of fatigue, including why getting adequate sleep is so important and tips for getting better sleep.
- Look into sleep-tracker websites, apps, or tools that would allow employees to record their nightly sleep amount and corresponding mood. Consider offering an employee discount on such tools.
- Cultivating certain habits can contribute to a better night’s sleep. Encourage employees to eat nutritiously, exercise regularly, and limit their consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine.
- If sleep disorders are an issue for your workforce, consider offering counseling or referrals for treatment.
Taking even small actions is an important first step in addressing fatigue in your workplace. Contact your Leavitt Group insurance advisor for assistance with your workplace fatigue management efforts.
General changes in the workplace can also effectively address fatigue and its accompanying risks.
- Install proper lighting, designate quiet break areas, and offer healthy food options in break rooms.
- Consider adjusting policies to allow for more frequent and restful breaks.
- Use machinery and equipment that eliminates or reduces any excessive physical demands of your employees. This can include ergonomic furniture and antifatigue matting.
- Ask employees what time(s) of the day they are most tired, and think of ways to address those times, e.g., offering a short extra break, providing a healthy snack option, or allowing them to listen to music. This is especially important for employees who work in safety-sensitive jobs, where fatigue is a major hazard.
Take a look at your individual job descriptions and workloads as well to see if there may be a reason why a certain person or department may be struggling with fatigue. If you see that a job description is unbalanced or has had responsibilities added to it over the years, consider the following:
- Redesign the job to include a variety of mental and physical tasks instead of all physical or all mental.
- Eliminate any excessive demands from a job either by deeming them unnecessary or sharing those responsibilities with another employee.
- Introduce job rotation in an effort to limit both mental and physical boredom and fatigue.
Fatigue Among Your Shift Workers
It is difficult to adjust to shift work, and the unconventional schedule takes a toll on your workers. Research shows that people who sleep during the day have lower quality sleep, and they often struggle to get an adequate amount of sleep. Plus, workers on a night shift schedule tend to have poor eating habits and lack regular exercise, which can also contribute to sleep problems, fatigue, and stress.
Dangers of Fatigue
Fatigue due to poor quality or lack of sleep affects every aspect of an individual’s life, and it can severely hamper one’s ability to perform at work. Fatigue causes drowsiness, moodiness, lack of concentration and focus, increased stress, and impaired hand-eye coordination. These symptoms prevent employees from performing their job at their highest capable level and also cause a serious safety hazard in many situations. In addition, employees experiencing fatigue are a danger to themselves and others during their commute, especially on their way home after a shift. Shift workers also tend to have more gastrointestinal and other health problems due to their unusual sleep and eating schedule. This includes a higher prevalence of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea.
Help Employees Avoid Fatigue
All of the problems discussed above can greatly limit your employees’ productivity, increase their health care costs, and reduce their overall quality of life. Fortunately there are ways that you can help your workers live healthier lives and get better sleep, which will both increase employee satisfaction and reduce the burden on your bottom line.
- Educate your employees on the importance of enough sleep, nutritious eating, and regular exercise.
- Good eating and exercise habits will help them sleep better and have more energy while they are awake.
- Talking to family and friends about their schedule can help them ensure they are getting the sleep they need.
- Encourage employees to see a doctor if they continue to struggle with sleep or think they have a sleep-related disorder or health complication.
- Provide adequate breaks and healthy food options during each shift. If employees are feeling drowsy, recommend a healthy snack or a short brisk walk to re-energize.
- Enforce strict safety procedures, including monitoring for drowsiness in safety-sensitive positions.
- Ensure reasonable shift length and frequency, and have sensible overtime procedures so that employees are not overwhelmed with their schedule.
- Use care when rotating shift schedules. Rotating schedules can be beneficial, allowing employees to also work daytime shifts. However, rotating shifts too frequently does more harm than good because the body doesn’t have time to adjust—making sleep, fatigue, and health problems even worse.