The Effects of Workplace Fatigue—and How Your Employer Can Benefit From Encouraging You to Rest
Whether you’re a fighter pilot, a nurse, or a night watchman, no amount of adrenaline can sustain you if you’re overly fatigued. Study after study shows that lack of sleep causes major health and cognitive problems. In fact, government agencies use sleep deprivation as an interrogation technique because it causes the responder to lose focus.
Shift work has long been known to cause severe sleep deprivation problems for employees. Fatigue in the workplace can increase on-the-job injuries and emotional strain, which will not only place the employee at risk, but also her co-workers, clients, and everyone else around her.
How Fatigue Affects Business
Humans are biologically designed to be awake during the day and sleep at night, but the demands of many businesses simply cannot accommodate a standard sleep schedule. Some businesses must operate around the clock, and they will often pay workers slightly more to work overnight. But a smart business owner knows that, in order to avoid trouble, he must take precautions to ensure that employees from all shifts are well-rested. Otherwise, the business risks the following results:
- Decreased production. Sleep-deprived employees are less able to accomplish their tasks efficiently. As a result, productivity suffers.
- More errors. A sleep-deprived employee makes more mistakes as his focus and train of thought become jumbled.
- Increased injuries. Sleep-deprived employees often have more health problems and pain associated lack of sleep than those who are well-rested. Furthermore, fatigue can cause an increase in workplace injuries as employees forget to take proper safety precautions and fail to recognize potential hazards.
Balancing Work and Rest
It is true that employers can’t magically make sure you have the rest you need to work safely and efficiently. However, there are many ways that an employer can encourage rest and limit exhaustion. These include:
- Enforcing breaks. Employers must ensure that employees receive their allotted breaks to recuperate from a monotonous task. Even a fifteen-minute break can restore vital function to the brain and improve focus.
- Guaranteeing adequate “off-times” between shifts. Since the average person requires at least six hours of sleep—most people require between eight and nine—employers should never schedule an employee’s shifts less than eight hours apart.
- Avoiding unusual or extended shifts. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that employers avoid having their employees work more than 40 hours a week or work unusual shifts whenever possible. An unusual shift may consist of irregular scheduling such as two shifts in one day—working four hours in the morning and then coming back for a three-hour shift in the evening. It may also include inconsistent shifts, such as an evening shift followed by a morning shift, followed by an overnight shift. If you believe your schedules violate your safety in accordance with this recommendation, feel free to contact OSHA directly.
By taking notice of the harm caused by worker fatigue, employers can encourage rest and ultimately promote a safer and more efficient workplace. As an employee, taking care to get adequate rest can make you a much happier and productive person.
Do you have a friend who works strange hours? Share this article with her on social media to raise awareness on the importance of sleep for everyone in the workplace!