Often we are overwhelmed with work problems associated with fatigue. Sometimes, it feels like one doesn’t have enough time to finish the tasks assigned to them by their managers. For this reason, balancing between work and social life becomes tricky. Rest is regarded as a waste of time. Therefore, many people sacrifice their sleep to squeeze in some extra hours of productivity. And this is where problems associated with fatigue start.
According to statistics, a large number of workers in every industry are affected by fatigue. In fact, many governments are concerned about their citizen’s failure to prioritize rest. The National Sleep Foundation outlines that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep to remain productive. Yet, many people still deprive themselves of enough rest. So what causes fatigue, and how can individuals deal with it? Keep reading to find out.
First, What Is Fatigue?
It is a state where one feels tired and drowsy. It results from lack of enough sleep which is heightened from prolonged mental activities. If not treated early, it can cause other mental diseases such as stress, anxiety as well as depression.
There are two types of fatigue. It can either be acute, which is a short term sleep loss, caused when an individual gets less sleep than usual before their work shift begins. It can also be chronic, which is more long term and is caused by not having enough rest for an extended time. Sleep debts usually build gradually within weeks or months of interrupting your usual sleep routine.
Signs of Fatigue
- Workers and employees should recognize early signs and symptoms of fatigue before this condition worsens. People who suffer from fatigue have these symptoms:
- Feeling tired even after you sleep
- Difficulty in concentrating and memory lapses
- Slow hand-eye coordination as well as reflexes
- Impaired or blurred vision
Causes of Fatigue
Often this condition is work-related. However, it can be caused by personal reasons or a combination of both. Workplace fatigue is caused by:
- Extended or intense mental activity
- Travelling as well as long commuting times
- Tight work schedule
- High levels of noise
- Inability to recover enough between work shifts
- Extremely hot or cold work environments
- Poor lighting in work areas
- Changes in the organization
- Difficult jobs and disruption of sleep patterns
Some workers are, however, at higher risk of this condition because of the nature of their job. For instance, seasonal workers, emergency service and medical workers too. Again alcohol and caffeine can affect one’s sleep quality and quantity, especially if taken a few hours before bedtime. Also, sleep disorders such as apnea and some medications can cause fatigue.
Effects of Fatigue in the Workplace
Fatigue affects an employee’s physical and mental state. However, it can also affect the health and safety of other individuals around them. For example, this condition can cause lack of alertness and lower one’s ability to respond to situations. Therefore, someone can make poor decisions which can risk other workers safety, especially when:
- Driving a vehicle
- Operating high-risk plants
- Doing a medical procedure or settings
- Working with electricity or substances which are highly flammable
When one suffers from fatigue, they can also not plan or communicate effectively. Their productivity is also reduced hence affecting their performance.
How to Manage Fatigue in the Workplace
Fatigue is not something that should only be handled by the management alone. Everyone, including the workers, can and should help fight it or otherwise it’ll create a risky environment to work in. Individuals should begin by identifying possible risk factors. Companies should:
Consult with everyone within the organization about what impact their workloads as well as schedules cause. That includes business travels as well as extra shifts. Evaluate work practices. If they’re not suitable, they should be reviewed to create better policies.
After, businesses can take control measures which reduce the risk of fatigue. One effective control measure that works is the shift design and rostering. Companies should design appropriate shifts and rosters. But that is not easy since jobs are different. Therefore the duration of a shift will also differ.
It’s wise that companies consider after what levels of working do they think that their staff will be fatigued. Organizations should avoid exposing their workers to long working hours, more than 50 hours in a week. They should allow employees to decide whether they want a permanent roster or rotating shifts. Additionally, businesses should account for the travel time of workers.
Other control measures include:
- Proper scheduling of work
- Creating a fatigue policy
- Improving environmental conditions like good lighting, noise reduction, comfortable temperatures, etc.
- Employing more workers to reduce extended work hours
It is also wise that companies inform and train their workers on the dangers of fatigue as well as how they can reduce risks. Training should be arranged well so that every worker can participate in it. Again, once businesses have implemented control measures, they should monitor and review them to determine if they’re effective.
Workers Also Have a Responsibility
Workers should take care of their safety and health. There are several ways employees can prevent fatigue in their workplace, including:
- Have a sleep routine and getting enough rest.
- Understanding as well as monitoring your alertness/ concentration at work.
- Seek immediate medical attention if there’s anything you suspect can affect your sleeping pattern or cause fatigue.
- After work, ensure that you assess your fatigue levels and come up with ways of managing them.
- Work with your supervisor on some steps of managing fatigue such as taking breaks, shift naps, etc.
- Exercise frequently and stay hydrated always.
Although fatigue is not a life-threatening condition, it can significantly affect one’s level of productivity. A company with unproductive employees is likely to incur losses. Not only that, fatigue causes a reduction in one’s level of attention hence can cause poor judgments as well as decision making.
This can thus put other employees at risk too. It is, therefore, up to managers as well as the workers themselves to take correct measures of reducing fatigue risks. Individuals should avoid exposing themselves to long working hours. Additionally, they should ensure that they take enough rest. If someone suffers from insomnia or other sleep-related illnesses, they should seek medical advice.