Thursday, August 18th, 2016
One important and often unacknowledged challenge leaders are facing is fatigue. Not just their own fatigue, the fatigue of their staff.
Employees at all levels are tired. They work long hours, and never feel as if they can get away from work, which makes them even more tired. The smartphones that were supposed to provide better work-life balance allow us to get away from the office more, but simultaneously allow more work to flow to us through an endlessly open fire hose.
When people get tired they make mistakes, and mistakes increase the risk the organization faces. How much risk is your organization exposed to because your employees are so tired that it affects their decision making?
Physical fatigue from working too many hours is compounded by fatigue resulting from never having a break from work to recharge. A lot of people say the first thing they do when they wake up and the last thing they do before they go to bed is to check–and respond to–emails on their smartphones. It isn’t just the early morning and late night work, it’s also the weekend and holiday work. The mental program labeled “work” is constantly running in the background, regardless of what they’re doing or where they are.
At this point many people have been tired for so long that many may have started to believe this is just the way the work is, and don’t necessarily think working under these conditions makes them less productive or increases risk for the organization. But just because it is common doesn’t mean it is good for the organization to allow this state of affairs to continue. How many mistakes are made because of fatigue? How much business is lost because a staff member was exhausted?
Employee fatigue can be a sign of deeper, more serious health issues in the workplace, and workers and managers should educate themselves about these issues. As a supervisor, you can combat employee fatigue by doing the following:
- Providing a comfortable work environment (reasonable temperatures, bright lighting, lower noise levels).
- Encouraging workers to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle.
- Openly discussing the importance of sleep and rest.
- Better planning and workload adjustments.
- Remaining aware of hours worked, and offering alternative shifts if possible.
Summing-up: There are real business consequences to fatigue that many people don’t talk about, but which leaders need to start addressing.