Managing Fatigue in the Workplace

It’s easy to imagine truck drivers, nurses, and first responders struggling to stay awake on the job, but fatigue impacts every occupation at every level. Fatigue includes physical tiredness, feeling mentally overwhelmed, even boredom. It’s easy to normalize fatigue – to accept it as a natural consequence of doing business, however, doing so not only hurts employees, it hurts the customers and the company’s bottom line.

The good news is anyone in any industry can make a Fatigue Management plan. In this post, we’ll talk about

  • Why you SHOULDN’T ignore or try to “push past” the fatigue,
  • How fatigue is reshaping the workplace in 2020,
  • The 5 Levels of Fatigue, and
  • The 5 steps to building your own Fatigue Management plan

If you haven’t addressed fatigue in your workplace, here’s what you need to know to get started.

Why Paying Attention to Fatigue Matters

Two out of three employed Americans say they’ve made mistakes at work because of fatigue. Mistakes range from trivial to severe: from making a mistake in an email (22%), missing a button or wearing mismatched shoes (23%), addressing a colleague by the wrong name (or sending an email to the wrong “Bob”) (24%), to missing a meeting or other job duties (41%).

Even though 93% of workers say they’ve taken action to boost their energy, these mistakes still happen. That means whatever actions people are taking aren’t enough.

Why?

Because you can’t treat all fatigue the same – fatigue is a signal, and the key is not to try to beat it or learn how to ignore it, the key is to learn how to respond proportionately.

How Fatigue is Reshaping the Workplace in 2020

By 2025 Millennials will account for 75% of the workforce.

This is a problem if your company isn’t prepared to handle the high turnover rates associated with Millennial employees. Millennials stay in their jobs an average of only 2 years! For Gen X, that average was 5 years; for Baby Boomers, that average was 7 years.

When employees leave, their departure costs employers 33% of that employee’s base pay, according to the Work Institute. This cost includes time spent screening new candidates, onboarding them, and having another employee change what they’re doing to cover the work until a new candidate is found, hired, and brought up to speed.

Using the 5 Levels of Fatigue

Related Resources: How to use the 5 Levels of Fatigue for Caffeine

Fatigue is not the enemy, it’s a powerful signal and using the 5 Levels of Fatigue is a strategy for finding the appropriate response to that signal.

GreenEyedGuide’s 5 Levels of Fatigue is based on the science of how caffeine affects the body the safeguards that keep tired nurses from killing people.

Using the 5 Levels of Fatigue allows individuals and companies to identify when to “push through” the fatigue and when real changes need to be made. Someone who is so tired they’re falling asleep standing isn’t going to feel better after a short walk and a glass of water.

To learn more about how to use the 5 Levels of Fatigue, listen to GreenEyedGuide on the Local First Podcast

The 5 Step Checklist to Build Your Fatigue Management Plan

Once you know how to calculate your Level of Fatigue, you can build safeguards to prevent that fatigue from affecting your work.

  • Workload vs Staffing
    • Do you have more work than people to do that work? If so, can any of that work be spread out over time or over different departments to reduce the workload of one person?
  • Shift Scheduling
    • If you or your team works long, unusual, or unpredictable hours, do you have strategies to make sure they get enough sleep when off-duty? Is there enough time between shifts?
    • Can you adjust the work schedule so that mission-critical tasks ARE NOT scheduled for those times when fatigue-driven mistakes are most likely to happen (shift beginning, shift end, and right after lunch)?
  • Employee Fatigue Training
    • Do you and your team know how to use the 5 Levels of Fatigue to gauge fatigue then act accordingly to lower the risk of making fatigue-based mistakes?
  • Workplace Environment Design
    • Is the lighting, temperature, and layout of your workplace conducive to staying alert and focused on the task at hand?
    • When you or your team are most likely to feel overwhelmed or exhausted, are the tools you need to do your work (or get a quick break) right at your fingertips?
  • Fatigue Monitoring
    • Do you and your team feel comfortable confessing when they need a moment to breathe or a place to take a 20-minute nap?
    • Is there more incentive to hide fatigue or to admit when help is needed?

Case Study: Fatigue Management Workshop with Palmer Johnson Power Company

GreenEyedGuide Fatigue Management Workshop with Palmer Johnson Power Systems

In October 2019, I had the pleasure of leading a Fatigue Risk Management workshop with Palmer Johnson Power Systems. In that workshop, we reviewed why fatigue matters, how to quantify fatigue, and what safeguards to put in place so fatigue is less likely to hurt the employees or company as a whole.

Palmer Johnson Power Systems is already addressing fatigue in the workplace using 3 of the 5 recommended strategies.

  • They already adjust workload and staffing during their busy season.
  • They’ve reorganized their warehouse to optimize Workplace Design.
  • They’ve initiated Employee Fatigue Training by completing the GreenEyedGuide Fatigue Risk Management workshop.

Managing fatigue in the workplace should be an ongoing process of corrective action and preventive action. There are always improvements to be made and ways to adapt to changes in workload, technological advances, and workforce mentality.

Building a Fatigue Risk Management System doesn’t have to happen all at once; the most important thing isn’t to get it perfect, it’s to get started.

Need help designing your Fatigue Management Plan?


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