Asleep on the Job

Fatigue is on the rise among U.S. workers. In a recent survey of human resource professionals, 81 percent of the respondents said that fatigue among workers is worse than in previous years. The National Sleep Foundation poll found that 29 percent of Americans fall asleep or become very sleepy at work. Finally, another survey found that nearly one-fourth of the 1,000 office workers surveyed admitted to napping at work.

Reasons for the problem

There are a number of reasons for fatigue on the job, including medical conditions and holding down more than one job or other responsibilities in addition to maintaining a work schedule. Other reasons include the disappearing boundary between home and work life and employees who overwork out of fear of losing their job. However, many human resource professionals cite too few people for the work to be done as the main reason for workplace fatigue. By having lower headcounts and higher overtime or extended workdays for people remaining in the workforce, some employers create conditions that will lead to employees being in a state of fatigue.

Impact of fatigue

The effects of fatigue in the workplace are many. For starters, fatigue will likely be manifested in higher error rates, quality problems, absenteeism, and higher turnover of employees. Fatigue can contribute to industrial accidents and injuries, as well as product liability risks. It can affect public health and safety, and it can be a factor in employee obesity and cardiovascular disease.

What can be done?

Break time is nap time for some employees. Some employers have actually established nap rooms for employees. Five percent of human resource professionals surveyed say that an on-site nap room is among their organization's wellness benefits. However, many employers take a dim view of employees sleeping at work, even when it's done during the employee's break time or meal period.

Employers can educate employees about the importance of getting enough sleep and encourage employees with sleep disorders to get medical attention. In addition, employees should be given adequate breaks during the workday.

SESCO Management Consultants is available to assist with your human resource issues. You may contact us by phone at 423-764-4127 or by email at sesco@sescomgt.com .