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Yesterday we signed off with 5 reasons why the symptoms of fatigue are bad for business. Today, we'll discuss these in more detail. 

Decreased productivity and stress:

Fatigue has been associated with increased risks of depression, anxiety, stress, and emotional burnout. Fatigue itself decreases our ability to concentrate and make decisions, as well as increasing error rates. These have obvious implications on productivity with greater impacts proportionate to higher level tasks.  

The exact impact is difficult to measure due to the difficulty in quantifying fatigue and an individual’s failure to recognise, report, or rectify early symptoms - often fatigue is mistaken as boredom or stress. We do know that fatigue contributes to stress and burnout, and the impact of stress on productivity is much more established. According to research from the Integrated Benefits Institute, employees that are the most stressed or report being burned out are 40% less productive than employees who report being less stressed. A 2008 Medibank Private report showed stress results in 3.2 days of lost productivity per Australian employee annually.

The effective management of personal stress and fatigue are very similar. So whether we are speaking about fatigue, stress, or both, what is clear is that they are related and that they are both highly destructive in regards to work performance and personal wellbeing. The bottom line; they’re costing your business money.

Increased injury risk:

Fatigue is a significant contributor to employee error rates and accident frequency. The specific factors leading to individual accidents are situation specific and it’s impossible to assign exact costs or percentages directly to fatigue. It’s even more difficult when you consider that many individuals either do not recognise early symptoms of fatigue, or underestimate the impact it has on their performance. Research has, however, shown clear correlations and a “dose response” between number of hours worked and risk of injury, suggesting that there’s a direct and costly causal relationship between fatigue and injuries.

Here are some interesting facts relating to fatigue and the general costs of injuries in the Australian workplace – you can join the dots for yourself:

  • Shift workers have almost double the injury frequency rate of day working peers
  • Being awake for 17 hours results in similar task performance as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05; 20 hours = BAC 0.1
  • Working 4 consecutive night shifts results in an average sleep debt of 6 hours
  • Shift workers have more than double the incidence rate of manual handling injuries than non-shift worker colleagues
  • Average employer costs per incident for an Australian workplace injury or illness is $5,100

Degrading employee health:

There are both short and long term impacts of chronic fatigue on employee health and health behaviours. In fact, fatigue can create a negative self-sustaining loop; that is, fatigue often leads people to skip routine exercise, favour unhealthy comfort foods, and use higher amounts of stimulants. In turn, the lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and over reliance on stimulants contributes to both mental and physical fatigue, lethargy, and potential difficulty sleeping. 

Fatigue has been associated with increased risks of:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Gastrointestinal disorders 
  • Anxiety
  • Stress and emotional burnout

In addition to this, fatigue and physical stress is also known to suppress immune function, increasing the incidence of common infections that lead to days off from work (eg. colds and flu).

Your least healthy workers are up to 3 x less productive than your most healthy AND they take up to 9 x more annual sick days. 

Decreased job satisfaction and increased stress:

Worktober? The 13th month! Employees today work the equivalent of an extra month compared to 25 years ago. 

Working more does not always correlate to getting more done. In fact, often the human elements that equate to competitive business advantage, such as innovation and creativity are suppressed when employees are drained, overworked, or disengaged from their job.  
Did you know an employee’s perception of their employer’s interest in their wellbeing is one of the number one drivers of job engagement? Did you also know that the number one career goal of university students and MBA candidates is work life balance? Recent economic climates paired with increasing 24/7 connectivity have resulted in employers requiring their workforce to do more with less. 

Healthy, rested, and engaged employees are more creative, more productive, and more satisfied.