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The Exhaustion Epidemic: Fatigued on the Job

30 Oct 2018

  • Over 1 in 10 working Brits have purposefully taken a nap at work

  • 86% are not able to speak openly with their line manager about how tiredness is impacting on performance

  • Almost half regularly turn up to their job feeling too tired to work

  • 3 in 10 have had an accident, made a serious mistake or felt exceptionally stressed at work due to fatigue

Fatigue. It’s long-term exhaustion, low energy and motivation which can be caused by sleep deprivation, diet, or mental or physical illness. Yet many of us suffer in silence, accepting fatigue as a result of living a busy life, but this shouldn’t be the case.

New research* from Westfield Health showed that not only are we a nation suffering from tiredness and fatigue from our ‘always on’ working lifestyle, but we’ve got a culture that doesn’t accept or see it as a real issue.

Over 1 in 10 working Brits have purposefully taken a nap at work, almost half regularly turn up to their job feeling too tired to work, 3 in 10 have had an accident or made a serious mistake due to fatigue, and 13% have even drifted to sleep whilst driving.

One respondent in the construction and manufacturing industry described trapping their hand in a machine due to fatigue, resulting in a disability. Another cited having an accident during a 66 hour week which resulted in a three day coma, and a further respondent reported becoming irrationally angry at a colleague and firing them unduly.  

Richard Holmes, Director of Wellbeing at Westfield Health said: “Feeling constantly drained isn’t normal — or acceptable. It’s a cry for help from your body or mind, and being in a constant state of fatigue can damage your physical and mental health, taking a toll on your quality of life and relationships.

“With stats like these, it’s clear to see there’s a real issue here, but 86% of survey respondents said that they are not able to speak openly and in confidence with their line manager about how tiredness is impacting on performance at work, and only 13% would consider tiredness or fatigue to be a genuine reason to call in sick.”

So what is the solution? One in six (16%) believe their employer could do more to reduce the risk of accidents and mistakes at work due to stress.

Richard continues: “Fatigue and tiredness are issues that employers and particularly line managers should not overlook. Employers need to ensure there are clear health and safety regulations in place around fatigue, especially in industries that require high levels of concentration.

“59% of people admitted that fatigue has made them less productive at work and made it difficult to concentrate, so it’s clearly in the interest of workplaces to support their colleagues. And, as our research highlights, the first step towards this is to create an open and honest culture where colleagues feel confident discussing the impact of fatigue on their performance at work.

“Once employers better understand the impact of tiredness and fatigue, they can support their people with appropriate interventions in a safe and understanding environment. The cultural change needs to come from leadership. Once the example has been set at the top, staff will feel more comfortable to talk about their struggles with fatigue and get the support they need quicker.” 

Mark Pinches, Head of Coaching at Westfield Health, shares tips on how to reduce fatigue:

  1. Exercise. Energy begets energy. We evolved to move around much more than we do in our typical sedentary 21st Century lifestyles. When you use up energy by moving more and exercising, you teach your body how to utilise energy more efficiently, which will help combat fatigue.

  2. Eat healthily. We get energy from our food, but not all food is equal. Over processed foods will have a detrimental impact on our energy levels, either because we can’t break it down to use its calorific value or we ‘over tax’ our systems trying to regulate the high levels of sugar and fat. A healthy balanced diet of natural and unprocessed foods will optimise our energy intake and reduce feelings of tiredness and fatigue.

  3. Improve your sleep quality to wake feeling refreshed and energised. Set your body clock by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Try to avoid naps during the day at they can play havoc with your body clock. We operate energetically and optimally during daylight hours and should sleep when it is dark. Make sure you unwind before going to bed by doing something relaxing, and try not to do or think about anything stressful before bed.

  4. Try to reduce your stress levels. Stress puts your body’s energy system into ‘auxiliary mode’ which actually uses more energy. Taking measures to build your mental toughness and resilience by adopting positive strategies to deal with life’s pressures will make you feel like you are back in control, giving you more energy.

  5. Cut out the caffeine. Caffeine doesn’t provide energy - if we rely on coffee to keep us going, we are depriving a body’s natural ability to use energy from a more natural and healthy source. Coffee may make you feel more awake, but you use more energy trying to get rid of the caffeine.

  6. Drink more water. At any moment in time within a typical indoor work environment, most people are dehydrated. Your body’s cells need to be hydrated to operate optimally. As little as being 2% dehydrated can lead to significant levels of fatigue and reduce concentration levels of up to 20% making us feel we need more energy to get things done.

When you begin to truly believe in the physical and emotional wellbeing of your staff it can completely transform the face of your business, improve productivity and create a positive working environment, helping you to retain staff and making you a desirable place for prospective employees to work.

Westfield Health, our preferred partner of Health and Wellbeing Services, can help ensure your employees are well beings. IoD members can access specially negotiated discounts on a range of products and services.

0114 250 2385

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*Based on research by Westfield Health in September 2018, by a panel of 1,000 UK employees.

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