Imagine being a customer service executive who has to work the night shift. You did not sleep or rest during the day, and now you’ve got to get to work.
After a few hours on the job, you’re tired and dozing off at your desk. The calls have slowed down. And then, there’s one call that stirs you awake, and in your confusion, you are off your desk and tumbling down to the ground.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Work-related fatigue is a common problem.
The most affected group of people are those who work the night shift.
But What Is Fatigue?
Fatigue is the physical and mental state of being tired.
Physical fatigue is the inability of muscles to maintain optimal physical performance.
Mental fatigue is the decrease in maximal cognitive performance. This usually results from prolonged mental activity.
As this article points out, fatigue is more than the state of feeling tired or drowsy. In the work context, fatigue reduces a person’s ability to perform their job as they should.
Causes of fatigue:
- Lack of enough sleep
- Prolonged mental or physical activity
- Underlying medical conditions
Fatigue can be due to both work- and non-work-related conditions. It is important to note that it can accumulate over a long time, thus causing a breakdown.
Work-related fatigue is, in most cases, due to a lack of enough sleep. It is common among people who work the night shift.
Sleep problems are a risk factor for work injuries.
Research indicates that workers who did not rest enough had 1.62 times higher risk of injury.
A 2015 Southern Cross Health Care Group Survey revealed that a quarter of the New Zealand population feels fatigued every day. This number rises to 36% among people under 30.
The survey further shows 11% of New Zealand citizens have fallen asleep while behind the wheel.
It’s easy to see there is a clear link between fatigue and cases of injuries at work.
Useful Tips on How to Manage Fatigue-Related Risks in the Workplace
1. Provide Healthy Meals and Snacks
There are various ways in which you can relieve employee stress at the workplace.
You can provide free and healthy meals made from wholesome foods. The food can be placed at different work stations. Employees can then snack whenever they are on their breaks.
This will keep employees healthy and prevent the consumption of junk food, which is common.
Additionally, having meals at the workplace saves time.
Verona Fossa explores food culture at work. She notes that food culture is close to an organization.
Sharing healthier foods creates a sense of connection between team members. This, in turn, boosts employee morale and productivity.
The World Moving and Storage Company offers breakfast at the workplace. Companies such as Sanitarium offer wholemeal food options. Tasman Bay Food Co. also offers healthy meal options.
Start by offering catered meals once or twice a week. You can also offer snacks, tea, water and coffee to keep your employees energized throughout the day.
2. Avoid Overexertion
The body has a way of shutting down from extreme exhaustion. Too many hours on the job can lead to fatigue in the workplace, thus posing a risk.
Working too long can lead to a decline in productivity as the body and mind slow down from exhaustion.
Reduce overtime so employees can work at their greatest levels.
Create a workplace culture that values rest. While you may not ban overtime, put a limit on the number of hours to ensure workers do not experience burnout.
In case your workers have to work long hours, ensure they also have time to take breaks, socialize, commute and spend time with family.
3. Introduce Leave and Holidays
Taking time away from work has immense physical and psychological benefits. People who take breaks and vacation time experience lower stress levels.
As a result, they enjoy improved physical and mental health.
Encourage employees to take their leave and holidays. If possible, ensure that such provisions are mandatory.
This will not only be beneficial to them but also to your business.
Taking breaks and holidays prevents burnout. It also ensures you have a re-energized team when they resume.
4. Provide Rest Facilities
Does your organization have a place where your employees can unwind?
Consider providing a clean, safe and comfortable environment where they can rest.
It could be a place where they sit down or nap before their shift or before their commute home.
Rest facilities could include entertainment features like television sets, games and books.
Note: Rest facilities should have good lighting, cool temperatures and tolerable noise levels.
It is a good idea to include green plants, as they reduce stress levels and provide a relaxing atmosphere.
5. Encourage Employees to ‘Work Smarter, Not Harder’
A 2018 survey of working life indicates that almost 1 in 10 New Zealanders have more than one job.
What this means is that a population of over 200,000 people work overtime.
The traditional 40-hour workweek is uncommon for those with many jobs.
Only 5% work a 40-hour week compared to 33% of single-job holders. Additionally, 20% of multiple-job holders work 60 or more hours a week across all their jobs.
Employers should ensure employees understand that working smart promotes productivity.
No matter how much time your employees spend in the workplace, what matters most is what they do.
Remember, you want the job done, but you want it done well. Too many hours at the wheel will only lead to a decline in productivity.
6. Educate Employees on Better Lifestyle Habits
The best way to keep your employees healthy is to educate them on better lifestyle habits.
Once in a while, you can also plan for training that will help in improving other aspects of their lives. Some of the lifestyle habits you can advocate for include:
Tips for Getting Better Sleep
- Reduce blue light exposure in the evening.
- Go to bed early and at the same time every day.
- Turn out the lights when going to bed.
- Remake your bed before bedtime.
- Don’t read or watch television in bed.
- Make your room dark and quiet before sleep.
- Avoid caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol, especially before bedtime.
Tips on Eating
- Do not skip meals.
- Have a healthy and balanced diet.
- Establish regular eating times.
- Avoid caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol.
- Avoid overeating.
- Exercise regularly.
Take the Next Step to Reduce Fatigue-Related Risks in Your Workplace
This article gives you six amazing tips on how to manage fatigue-related risks in the workplace. Organizations must continue working toward creating safety culture in the workplace. Provide appropriate workwear, educate and train employees on how to avoid fatigue-related risks.
Employers must also lead by example. They should involve workers in their efforts to build a safety culture.
Photo: Andrea Piacquadio