Managing Fatigue in the Workplace

Updated 4/21/2020 by Danielle Robertson Rath (the “GreenEyedGuide”)

How to Manage 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 can be as minimal as boredom or as severe as burnout. Fatigue can be physical, psychological, or both. Ignoring fatigue or accepting it as “part of the job” doesn’t just hurt employees, it also hurts the people they serve and the company’s bottom line. As a result, every company should have a plan for managing fatigue in the workplace.

The good news is anyone in any industry can make a Fatigue Management plan. After all, getting this plan started is more important than getting it perfect the first time.

In this post:

  • The Cost of Fatigue
  • Measuring Fatigue from Boredom to Burnout
  • 5 Steps to Start a Fatigue Management Plan
GreenEyedGuide featured in

Hi there, I research caffeine, energy drinks, and fatigue in the workplace.

I’ve been passionate about the science behind energy drinks since 2003. As my business has grown, I’ve expanded my focus from energy drinks to fatigue. As a result, my mission as the “GreenEyedGuide” is to help people who deal with caffeine and fatigue on a regular basis.

In March 2020, I published my second book, How to Get Sh*t Done When You Feel Like Sh*t: The Secret to Caffeine, Motivation, and Productivity for the Sleep-Deprived and Overwhelmed

The Cost of Fatigue

If you haven’t addressed fatigue in your workplace, here’s what you need to know to get started. In other words, here’s why paying attention to fatigue matters.

fatigue based mistakes in the workplace due to fatigue

Even though 93% of workers say they’ve taken action to boost their energy, 2/3 employed Americans say they’ve made mistakes at work.

 

Mistakes range from trivial to severe:

  • 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%)
  • Missing a meeting or other job duties (41%)

Let’s look at that statistic again. More than 9/10 people say they’ve tried to boost their energy at work, but more than 6/10 people say they’ve made a mistake for not being alert enough.

That means the actions people are taking to boost their energy are not (always) working.

Why?

Because there is no one-size-fits-all solution to fatigue in the workplace. Fatigue is a signal, and the key is to learn how to respond proportionately based on that signal.

At GEG, we believe getting enough sleep is important, but not always possible, and that more caffeine isn’t always the answer.

We also believe that even someone who is fully rested or fully caffeinated can feel physically or mentally exhausted at work. These principles are why the 5 Levels of Fatigue is so effective.

working 17 hours straight is as bad as being one drink deep at work

Measuring Fatigue from Boredom to Burnout

Fatigue might seem like the enemy but it can be a powerful tool if you know how to use it. The 5 Levels of Fatigue, developed by GreenEyedGuide, is a system for measuring fatigue, from boredom to burnout.

GreenEyedGuide’s 5 Levels of Fatigue is based on the science behind caffeine and the industry best practices of Fatigue Risk Management, recommended by organizations such as the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s Task Force on Fatigue Risk Management.

Using the 5 Levels of Fatigue helps you figure out when to “push through” the fatigue and when real changes need to be made.

For example:

  • 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.
  • Someone who ends their day feeling overwhelmed needs to make some changes, not just more caffeine.

GreenEyedGuide's 5 Levels of Fatigue
Introducing the 5 Levels of Fatigue, developed by GreenEyedGuide founder Danielle Robertson Rath​
67 percent of employees are sometimes, very often or always burned out at work
What is fatigue costing your organization?

5 Steps to Build Your Plan for Managing Fatigue in the Workplace

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

  1. 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?
  2. 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)?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?

Let GreenEyedGuide Research and Consulting help you build your Fatigue Management Plan

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