Is sheer exhaustion affecting your performance and health?

According to Australia’s Business Insider, Australia ranks as the second most workaholic country in the world. Statistics in the report indicate that Australians work nearly 1690 hours each year with only 47% taking all their annual leave holidays. Working too much, staying back for excess overtime and always eating lunch at your desk are usually precursors to experiencing fatigue. While it’s true that some people thrive on being workaholics, being overworked or fatigued isn’t fun for the rest of us.

Contrary to popular belief, fatigue is much more than simply feeling tired. Fatigue is described as a state where mental, physical and even emotional exhaustion can impair your ability to concentrate and perform at work. Chronic, unrelenting fatigue eventually leads to burnout. Fast and furious lifestyles, increasing work and life stressors, rise in job redundancies, spiralling costs of living and crumbling family structures have adversely impacted life-work balance. Many Australians are experiencing fatigue and burnout before reaching the age of thirty. Numbers of sufferers are also rising with the increasing amounts of sleepless nights spent browsing social media and reading backlit screens.

It is usually described as a weary, tired feeling accompanied by the longing to sleep. Fatigue can be heightened by overwork (both physical and mental), repetitive or boring activity and also by prolonged periods of anxiety and stress. Worse, lack of sleep over extended periods of time can result in hypertension, cardiovascular disease and impairment of the immune system. It’s extremely important for managers and employers to be aware of the negative effects of fatigue for themselves as well as for their employees.

Fatigue increases the risk of injuries and accidents as the employee is displays slower reaction times. Fatigue can result in fatal accidents and injuries in industrial, manufacturing, mining sectors etc. Workers may also be unable to concentrate and memory may be weak due to lack of sleep. Research also indicates that unaddressed fatigue can impact decision-making, communication, productivity, recall and the ability to plan. Fatigue can erode performance and create confusion and delays. From the organisation’s perspective, fatigue also results in increased absenteeism, increased medical costs and employee turnover due to sickness. Prolonged fatigue is also known to cause anxiety and depression.

It’s a good idea for all employers to adopt and implement a consistent fatigue management policy and conduct fatigue awareness programmes. Keeping a careful eye on fatigue-related issues helps protect employee health and wellbeing and promotes performance at the same time. In addition, prolonged overwork and acute fatigue may render the organisation vulnerable to increased legal implications. Australian workplace statistics also indicate that more than 10,000 workplace accidents every year are caused due to fatigue. Safe Work Australia has issued a set of guidelines and regulations regarding fatigue management in different types of workplaces.

Employers need to ensure that workers are not overloaded with too many hours or overly intense work in one stretch. Similarly, they must ensure that workers have adequate time off on weekends or between strenuous shifts. You may also need to review work arrangements for employees and analyse uneven distribution of workload. Stress and fatigue are deadly bedfellows when it comes to burnout and performance. Chronic stress can cause fatigue and vice versa and what’s more, fatigue doesn’t disappear with a week or fortnight of rest; mitigation is not always a simple matter. In the case of fatigue, prevention is always better than cure. Regular review, refining and implementation of fatigue management policies is a good way to promote employee wellbeing.

We, at ESN, offer our reliable services with regard to fatigue management and practices in your workplace. Our experienced consultants will review the workplace environment, policies and operations and suggest improvements in order to promote overall employee health, engagement and productivity. Please feel free to speak to our friendly team members about your queries regarding our range of corporate services.