Is employee fatigue affecting your business productivity?

Published on February 24, 2022 by Lyndsey McLaughlin
Employee fatigue

Are tired employees having an impact on the productivity of your business? HR consultant Lyndsey McLaughlin explains the reasons behind employee fatigue and what employers can do to help.

Employee fatigue happens when employees are feeling seriously tired at work. It can be a consequence of working too many hours, long working days, poor conditions, or even be related to personal issues.

Understandably, employee fatigue is not looked on favourably by employers. At best, it could reduce productivity, but at worst, it could be dangerous. If an employee works on a building site, for example, and they are suffering from fatigue, this could lead to serious accidents in the workplace.

Signs of employee fatigue

Unless an employee is visibly falling asleep at work, it may not be obvious that they are suffering from fatigue. However, there are some common signs to look out for in your employees, including drooping eyes, yawning, forgetfulness, negative moods, and frequent absence. If a usually competent employee is suddenly making mistakes, this could be a result of employee fatigue.

The pandemic and employee fatigue

We have lived through a pandemic; one that has been ongoing since 2019 and has still not reached its end. It has been a time of unrest and a major change to the way we live. Lockdowns, home working, and the inability to socialise have all had effects on people, as has the prevalence of Long COVID. According to statistics from the HSE, the rate of work-related stress, depression and anxiety has increased since pre-pandemic 2018/2019.

Quite often, the effects of something as severe as a pandemic do not set in until after the event, and this is what organisations are seeing more and more. Returning to the workplace, or even continuing to work from home, many people are still finding it difficult to maintain their motivation levels. The adrenaline kicks in while the pandemic is underway, but this can cause extreme fatigue after the event and lead employees towards burnout.

How to manage tired employees

How to manage tired employees

If you are dealing with tired employees, there are steps you can take to help give them an extra boost and reduce tiredness, including:

Flexible shift patterns

You may want to consider offering flexible shift patterns to suit your employees, if possible. Some people are more awake and raring to go in the morning, while others perform better at night. Many companies are also offering permanent hybrid working, to give employees a better work/life balance. It is important to recognise tired employees and try to accommodate them where possible.

Encourage naps

It may not seem like a normal thing to do, to encourage your employees to sleep, but this can be hugely beneficial. It may not be as possible if they are based in the office, but if it is, actively encouraging employees to take a quick 20-minute nap, when they feel a slump coming on, could boost their productivity.

Promote healthy foods

We all know that healthy foods are better for us and one way they benefit us is by improving energy levels. As an employer, it is not your responsibility to tell your employees what to eat, but there are ways you can help promote a healthy lifestyle. Advise them on the right foods to eat and provide them with fresh fruit as snacks. These small steps can make a big difference to energy levels.

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What to do if an employee is sleeping at work?

Let’s be blunt. Employees are not paid to sleep and if you find an employee sleeping at work, this is a problem. Disciplinary action would be a natural course of action for dealing with an employee sleeping at work, especially if they are doing so frequently!

However, the first step should be to speak to the employee informally and find out if there’s anything causing the fatigue and whether there’s anything you can do to help. For example, reducing workload, offering flexibility, etc. You may even suggest that they take annual leave to rest. It should not become commonplace for employees to be sleeping at work unless you have given them permission to nap.

Good sleep hygiene tips for employees

According to a report relating to sleep and our mental health, 48% of adults said poor sleep has had an adverse effect on their mental health. Furthermore, 35% said sleeping poorly had caused feeling of anxiety and 42% stated that a lack of sleep had caused them to feel stressed.

Tired employees may not understand how they can improve their fatigue, but generally it would come down to the effectiveness of their sleep. These are some good sleep hygiene tips for employees:

  • Regular routine – it is important to stick to a regular routine when it comes to getting sufficient sleep. Advise employees on the importance of sticking to a regular sleeping routine.
  • Reduce Screen time – a general reduction in screen time can help, especially just before bed. Watching TV or using a phone or computer in bed is not advisable.
  • Quiet bedroom – the bedroom should be a quiet and comfortable place, with warm and comfy bedding. This will help with sleep hygiene.
  • Avoid caffeine – drinking coffee just before bed will result in difficulties getting to sleep, as well as restlessness. Encourage employees to set a specific time for their last coffee, usually a good few hours before going to bed.

Employee fatigue can have a negative effect on your business. It is important to take steps to avoid or reduce it for the benefit of your team and your business performance.

Read more from the myhrtoolkit blog

Revenue per employee: are you getting the most out of your employees?

8 employee engagement tips for managers

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Written by Lyndsey McLaughlin

Lyndsey McLaughlin is a CIPD qualified HR consultant and recruitment professional who specialises in HR advice and writing about a range of business and staff management topics for employers and managers.

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