A report by the National Safety Council illustrates that over two-thirds of employees in all industries have reported work fatigue symptoms including feeling tired while at work.1
Half of employers in all industries have reported finding employees asleep on the job,1 but at the same time tend to think that less than one-third of their employees are at risk for fatigue.2
Interestingly, employers overwhelmingly thought work fatigue was a safety issue, but their employees were less likely to agree.1
So why is there such a rift between the reality of fatigue risk in the workplace and common perceptions of it? Are misconceptions about work fatigue symptoms the problem?
For one, our 24/7 society has come to view working through tiredness and fatigue symptoms as virtuous and a sign of personal fortitude.
In many professions, working in spite of dangerous fatigue is even seen as inevitable because the needs of the job are seen to outweigh the health and safety needs of the individual worker.
This view also results in poor shift scheduling that exacerbates safety risks, like a night shift immediately following a day shift.
The irony is that managing worker fatigue improves overall worker health and morale and productivity. Continuing to work despite showing work fatigue symptoms is in fact counterproductive as well as dangerous.
In addition, work fatigue is not always characterized by drowsiness.
In fact, the most common symptoms of work fatigue can include:
- appetite loss
- blurry vision
- chronic tiredness or sleepiness
- impaired decision-making and judgment
- impaired hand-to-eye coordination
- moodiness, such as irritability
- muscle weakness
- poor concentration
- reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand
- reduced immune system function
- short-term memory problems
- slowed reflexes and responses
- sore or aching muscles
In fact, people who have accumulated sleep debt may be awake and appear alert (especially at a time of day in which energy levels are higher according to the circadian cycle) but may be suffering from fatigue symptoms that are not as visible.
Hidden symptoms of fatigue at work include impaired judgment or cloudy thinking, slowed reaction times, an inability to focus, as well as a failure to recognize deficiencies in one’s own performance.
These signs of work fatigue can go unnoticed by a supervisor and are often downplayed as not serious when they do get noticed.
The NSC reports that 97% of the American workforce is subject to fatigue risk,1 but the risk is far from unmanageable.
We’re eager to discuss fatigue management solutions that are compatible and suitable for your unique organization, bringing these and other overlooked sources of fatigue risk into view. Interested? Book a meeting here!