How can companies fight workplace fatigue?

Fatigue is the state of feeling very tired, weary or sleepy resulting from insufficient sleep, prolonged mental or physical work, or extended periods of stress or anxiety. It has become a growing concern in Asian workplaces as HR professionals realise that exhausted employees may be putting themselves, their co-workers and the entire organisation at risk.

Recent studies by Sleepseeker (opens a new window) and Microsoft (opens a new window) show that the world’s most fatigued country is Singapore, where one in two workers feels exhausted and 58% feel overworked (opens a new window).

Factors contributing to workplace fatigue include:

  • Physically or mentally demanding work

  • Prolonged period of being awake (>16 hours)

  • Inadequate time for sleep (<7 hours)

  • Active during an adverse circadian phase

  • Drugs/medication and medical conditions

  • Critical moderating factors in the work environment such as temperature, noise, vibration

  • Complexity and duration of physical, mental and sensory-motor tasks

Workplace fatigue can gravely affect employees and companies. Staying awake for 24 hours straight affects the human body similarly to a blood alcohol level of 0.10%, which exceeds the legal limit for drivers in Singapore, China, South Korea and many other Asian countries. It has also been found that a fatigued worker’s risk of accident is 65% greater (opens a new window) than a non-fatigued worker. According to the National Safety Council (opens a new window), 13% of workplace injuries can be attributed to fatigue.

Impacts of fatigue typically also include decreased productivity, communication skills, ability to handle job stress and memory, and increased absenteeism and presenteeism. It is estimated to cost employers about USD 136 billion a year (opens a new window) in health-related lost productivity.

What employers can do to fight workplace fatigue:

  • Provide breaks at work: Most experts recommend taking breaks between every 25 and 90 minutes. A short break can give employees the energy and focus they need to be safe and productive. A break from blue light emitted by computer screens also makes it easier for employees to enter a deep restorative sleep at night.

  • Avoid giving employees an excessive workload: Managers should check on employees regularly to ensure they are given a reasonable workload and that they do not feel overworked.

  • Educate employees about the importance of sleep: Employers can make sleep a part of their corporate wellness programmes by offering sleep promotion and sleeping disorder screening programmes.

  • Train employees to work efficiently: Employers can organise productivity and time management workshops to improve their employees’ work efficiency and shorten their working hours.

  • Adopt a sleep health culture: The company can discourage employees from sacrificing sleep for work-related activities and provide support, such as transportation and nap facilities, if very early or late hours are required.

Fatigue in the workplace is manageable through continuous improvement of work organisation and conditions. This includes overall management and the modification of working conditions encompassing job redesigning, recurring review with ongoing improvements to operational efficiency protocols, and promotion of physical and emotional wellbeing of employees, among other activities.

Workplace fatigue is an issue that companies should identify and handle at an early stage. The key for both employees and employers, and especially HR practitioners, is to identify and manage fatigue incidence and reduce its probability, educate workers on coping strategies for combating fatigue and utilise tools to obtain both subjective and objective information from the workforce to validate its presence or absence in the organisation.

Act before fatigue causes damage to your company and your employees! Lockton is more than happy to help you with improving your employee benefits and satisfaction levels. With a combination of analytics, consultancy experience and brokerage expertise, Lockton delivers employee benefits programmes that are aligned to your business objectives. If you would like to find out more, please do not hesitate to contact:

Rhea Ablan, Head of Employee Benefits, Philippines | +632 811 0388 | (opens a new window)

Stella Sung, Head of Benefits and Health, Greater China & Korea | +852 2250 2831 | (opens a new window)

Rachael Tay, Regional Head of Benefits, Asia Pacific | +65 8869 8592 | (opens a new window)