Fatigue monitoring is a big topic, and the causes of fatigue in the workplace are varied and numerous. Based on the ones that truly impact your environment, a fatigue monitoring system can be built with those in mind. For example, it’s fairly well-known that uneven or long hours, overtime, or rotating schedules that change from day to night and back again, pose a particular issue when it comes to monitoring and managing fatigue, and schedules can be assessed and modified. But what if you don’t have employees working difficult schedules? Are you exempt from having to worry about fatigue?
Actually, if you’re thinking fatigue isn’t an issue in your workplace, you might want to think again. There are other situations that occur in and out of the workplace that cause enough fatigue that businesses would do well to acknowledge them as significant factors in employee health and safety management.
Balancing Multiple Jobs and Non-work Life
One of the factors that causes fatigue in employees is the number of people who are working second jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people working multiple jobs in the US were at an 8-year all-time high in 2016. Those numbers declined slightly in 2017, but many people are still struggling to make ends meet and multiple jobs are their only choice, giving them little time for rest.
In some cultures, multiple jobs are a normal way of life. On one continent where our fatigue management system has been in use for many years, companies have fatigue monitoring because most of the employees have small family farms in addition to their jobs. People are up before dawn to manage farm animals and crops, and by the time they report for work, they’ve already put in a full day.
Probably more recognizable as a source of fatigue here in the States is the very antiquated concept of one working adult per household that still dictates many work cultures and company expectations of employees. The Pew Research Center reports that in 1960, the ratio of one working adult per household compared to two working adults was 70/25. By 2012, the ratio had changed to 31/60. Rarely does one person go to work while someone else cares for the children and everything else in non-work life. People are struggling to make up the real difference, and that causes fatigue.
The Value of Fatigue Monitoring Systems
Companies can implement several kinds of fatigue monitoring systems. The one mentioned at the beginning of this article is a fairly simple one – assessing and adjusting shift schedules. While it’s been done for years, there are plenty of companies with long or uneven hours who haven’t applied these principles. It doesn’t have to be at the expense of business. There are a number of things that can be done to adjust schedules without upsetting customers. And, more rested people are more productive (and safer) people.
A fatigue monitoring system that tracks real work hours on an individual basis can do more than that. It can give companies a “heads up” as to when employees are beyond their ability to work safely, or it can correlate data on how productivity and quality control are aligning with human energy.
But fatigue management demonstrates its real value when it interacts with the employee. Real-time analysis can assess where all the employees are in their fatigue status and inform employees automatically so they can take simple countermeasures to stay alert, with the most concerning cases escalating to supervisors so they can intervene and keep people out of harm’s way.
People don’t have to be sent home; usually, duties of high-risk can be reassigned, and an early lunch break or other refresher can be instigated. What we’ve discovered is real-time feedback to employees every day on their actual and projected fatigue levels tends to impact people who aren’t taking their sleep hygiene or their nutrition seriously. Most people want to feel good, and most people want to do well at work. Fatigue management is a way to facilitate both of those things.