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How fatigued employees affect your business

The long-term impact of sleep deprivation on employees is real and tangible. It is estimated that 30% of employees sleep fewer than six hours a night. This accumulation of sleep debt can lead to less energy, poorer cognitive function, less productivity, and a decreased ability to cope with stress in the workplace.

This infographic from the Pulse Institute demonstrates the challenges to workplace productivity that exist when employees are not sufficiently rested, including:

  • 23% reduced concentration
  • 18% reduced memory function
  • 9% increased difficulty in performing work or volunteer tasks

Fatigued workers contribute to on the job errors – the cost of which affects an organization’s performance, safety and bottom line. What are you doing to address fatigue in your workforce?

AsleepOnTheJob

It’s 3 am, do you know how fatigued your workers are?

When the news of the Chicago train derailment came across our desks last week, we immediately took notice of the time of day the incident occurred. We know from experience and science, that 3 AM is not an optimal time for us to be up and about, performing safety sensitive tasks.

In our 24-hour society, however, the world doesn’t shut down at night so that everyone can go to sleep. Police officers need to respond to emergencies, nurses need to tend to patients, machinery operators need to make sure facilities keep running, and transportation workers need to make sure travellers are delivered safely to their destinations – at all hours of the day.

The responsibility to ensure these, and other shift-related jobs, are performed effectively and without risk to human safety must be shared by both the employer and the worker. There are number of variables which can contribute to someone’s level of fatigue on the job – Are the work shifts inconsistent? Does their work schedule give them enough time off to sleep? Does the worker have a sleep disorder? Does the worker have children at home who are keeping them up? Does the sleeping environment of the worker allow for restful sleep? Does the worker make an effort to obtain 7-9 hours of sleep per day? … this list could go on.

The fact is, all of these specific variables (and more) can be addressed if an employer asks two questions:

  • Does the work schedule provide the worker with the opportunity to maintain regular, sufficient sleep?
  • Is the worker taking advantage of the sleep opportunity being provided to them?

Obtaining objective answers to these questions is actually easier than one might think. The technology and tools to analyze work schedules and measure worker’s sleep is commercially available. (Full disclosure here, we are talking about Fatigue Science technology.) These tools can help employers identify the possibility of worker’s accumulating sleep debt based on their schedules, in a scientifically-validated and meaningful way. They can also help organizations identify if their workers are indeed accumulating risk-inducing levels of sleep debt due to insufficient sleep, whether related to schedule, lifestyle, health or a combination of these factors. By identifying the causes of fatigue in the workplace, organizations and employees can start to manage these variables.

In the case of the O’Hare Airport train crash, the operator has admitted to falling asleep while driving. Additionally, it was noted that she had previously fallen asleep on the job only last month. While it is extremely fortunate there have been no fatalities in either incidents, the risk to human life and the growing financial costs associated with last Monday’s event should serve as a wake up to organizations in any industry. It is not enough to just investigate whether or not fatigue is a factor in a workplace accident, employers and authorities need to take the next steps to address it and reduce the risk of it happening again. Whether a roster of train operators, police officers, or heavy machinery operators, Fatigue can be both measured and managed – before someone makes a mistake that puts themselves, and other human life at risk.

Showing up to work tired is just like showing up to work drunk

We found this great piece about the research and work Harvard is doing to bring attention to the issue of fatigue in the workplace. Fatigue isn’t just a safety issue for truck drivers, it’s an all around performance and health issue in every industry. The fact is, people who don’t get sufficient nightly sleep (between 7-9 hours) can’t perform at their best and suffer more health problems.

During the last few decades the average American has lost an hour and a half of sleep per night. Sleep researchers at Harvard say the workplace is suffering to the tune of $63 billion a year as a result of insomnia, and all the health and productivity problems that go with it…

The article references the approach the Dallas Mavericks are taking to address fatigue and performance in their players (hey, that’s us!):

“Some businesses are already tackling the issue. Casey Smith is head athletic trainer for NBA team the Dallas Mavericks. The players have just started wearing wristwatches that measure the duration and intensity of their sleep. “It’s a sport but it’s also a business,” says Smith. “Our business is to win games, to win matches, and anything that can make our athletes perform at a higher level, react quicker, recover better, that’s something that we would obviously be interested in.”

Read the full piece or listen to the podcast