Across the workforce, more than two-thirds of the American workforce report being tired at work. Fatigue remains a significant problem for employers across virtually all industries—some 90% of enterprises have felt its negative effects, which have evolved and grown during the COVID pandemic.
In a new episode of the DORN Injury Prevention Academy Podcast, we sat down with Mike Harnett, President of Solaris Fatigue Management and a trusted authority in the world of human factors and fatigue in the workplace. Mike shared her insights into the nature of today’s fatigue problems, exploring the connections between sleep deprivation and mental health and discussing how employers can implement cost-effective solutions that address fatigue from a whole-worker perspective.
Catch the podcast here: https://youtu.be/yNf-CDslHN8
The Costs and Effects of Workplace Fatigue
Making matters even more challenging for employers are the costs associated with a fatigued workforce. Fatigue costs employers between $1,200 and $3,100 per employee per year, adding up to more than $136 billion per year in lost productivity alone. And the prevalence of fatigue makes it exceptionally costly in terms of long-term health effects to employees. Fatigue can cause serious physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease and dramatically raise the risk of injuries on the job. Further, it’s known to contribute to serious mental health issues as well, including depression and anxiety. With record numbers of Americans leaving their jobs, fatigue also worsens the already costly issue of turnover.
On an individual level, fatigue can be seriously detrimental to an employee’s ability to focus and perform their job tasks with minimal injury risk. One easy way to demonstrate the physical effects of fatigue is to compare it to alcohol consumption. The National Safety Council states that losing two hours of sleep is similar to the effects of three alcoholic beverages; losing four hours causes a similar level of impairment to drinking a full six-pack. Fatigued employees are also more likely to be involved in accidents, especially car crashes, outside of work.
How to Fight Fatigue in the Workplace
The question of managing fatigue has grown more complex as work environments have shifted in the past two years. With more employees working remotely than ever before, much of what happened in an office now happens over video conferencing apps like Zoom and GoToMeeting. That means there’s a lower degree of administrative oversight and involvement from safety managers, and a potentially higher risk of fatigue.
To combat fatigue and its effects in today’s workforce, employers need a full range of tools at hand, including:
- Proactive scheduling and rostering practices to minimize shift work and increase frequency or duration of breaks
- Technology-based solutions such as wearable devices to track fatigue levels in real time
- Modifications to the work environment to limit exertion and potentially dangerous tasks when employees are experiencing fatigue
- An organizational culture that emphasizes the importance of sleep and discourages employees from forgoing sleep
Watch the latest episode of the DORN Injury Prevention Academy Podcast for more expert insights into the fatigue problem and strategies to mitigate its impact on employees’ wellness and employers’ bottom line.
Are your employees suffering from workplace fatigue?
Join Avetta Fellow Kevin Lombardo and Maria Elena Gomez-Mejia on an ISHN webinar this Thursday, January 27th, as they define several new strategies for fighting fatigue in the workplace, from the increased data analysis provided by on-site observation to the immediate improvements that can be generated with technological integration.