Managing Fatigue in the Workplace April 28th, 2010, by Ken Buckley

Being tired at the end of a working day is one thing, but when people are turning up for work already exhausted it starts to become a serious problem. Fatigue in the workplace seems more prevalent than ever, and it is one of the most important factors when implementing a corporate health program.

Why Address Fatigue in the Workplace?

The first thing to understand is that the human body was never designed to get up at dawn then stay awake for hours after dusk.  We evolved long before the invention of electric lighting to rest with the going down of the sun.

Today, in addition to staying up late, we often miss out on the other important elements we need to induce proper rest such as exercise and sufficient real sunlight. Add to this the modern challenges of overly processed foods, caffeine addiction and late night TV, and you have a recipe for exhaustion.

This chronic lack of rest can have far reaching negative effects in the workplace. Firstly, it has been shown that employees that are not properly rested are more prone to illness, anxiety and depression, and are more likely to be involved in workplace accidents. Furthermore, those experiencing fatigue at work have been shown to be more distracted, less motivated and less efficient than those who come to work after a good night’s sleep.

The good news though is that those who do make positive changes to improve their rest habits have more energy, more concentration and a more positive outlook, increasing company morale and productivity overall.

Implementing a Workplace Fatigue Management Plan

As poor sleep patterns can usually be tied to other health issues, a holistic approach to health management is necessary.  From the outset, those that improve their diet or increase their exercise levels are likely to have improved sleep patterns as a consequence.

Some ideas for addressing fatigue as part of an overall health program are:

  • Educate your staff on proper sleep hygiene. Hire a professional to talk to them about the importance of regular routines including properly winding down before bed time; avoiding late night stimulants such as coffee, food and television, benefits of regular physical activity; and creating a quiet and dark sleeping environment.
  • Encourage breaks during the day for employees to de-stress and clear their minds. Breaks that incorporate some natural sunlight and exercise, such as a lunchtime stroll, are especially effective for regulating sleep cycles.
  • Organise a class to teach relaxation techniques such as deep-breathing, yoga and meditation.
  • Provide a quiet room where staff can recharge for a few minutes when they’re feeling frazzled. Those working long shifts often benefit from a short nap, so reclining armchairs can be a good investment.

Remember that designing a comprehensive wellness program is the key, and that improving other health behaviours such as diet and exercise will indirectly improve fatigue and low-energy overall.

Integrating these with education on proper sleep hygiene and the importance of rest will help employees build habits that combat the exhaustion so prevalent in workplaces today, and improve mood, alertness and efficiency for the long term future.

For more information on addressing workplace fatigue contact Healthworks on 1300 90 10 90 (International: IDD 61-2-9954-1888 ) and be sure to quote: “post239” for eligibility of Healthworks latest online offers and Corporate Health initiatives

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