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Four ways fatigue is wreaking havoc on your workplace

by CBHS Corporate Health | Jul 29, 2019
A lady affected by fatigue at workplace

You may think fatigue and its risks are confined to the heavy industries, where machinery operators or truck drivers need to be on their game. However, fatigue and sleepy staff can pose risks in almost any industry. Especially where staff are doing long hours, fly-in-fly-out, shift work or are on-call.

Safe Work Australia defines fatigue as more than feeling tired and drowsy. It’s mental and/or physical exhaustion that reduces your ability to perform your work safely and effectively.

What are four risks your organisation faces by having your people turning up to work with sleep deprivation or fatigue?

Death, accident and injury

First and foremost is the possibility of losing an employee in a workplace accident, or an accident on the way to or from work. Today, and every other day, statistics tell us that more than one Australian will die from falling asleep at the wheel or from an industrial accident due to lack of sleep. Even if your staff don’t drive as part of their job, many will commute each day using roads as a pedestrian or driving their own car. Poor sleepers are 70% more likely to be in an accident.

Accidents and injuries also increase the likelihood of compensation claiming for both physical and mental injuries, which can drive up premiums. If you’re in a white-collar industry, you’re not exempt either – these account for almost one-fifth of serious claims.

Absenteeism and presenteeism

People find it hard to attend work (absenteeism) and engage at work in a meaningful way (presenteeism) when they haven’t had enough sleep. Can you believe 17% of Australians missed work in the past month due to poor sleep? A Sleep Health Foundation and Deloitte report found this cost the nation $370m in 2016-17. The same report states that research has shown sickness absence days are lowest at approximately 8 hours of sleep a night. This fits with recommended guidelines of 7-9 hours per night.

People off sick puts extra strain on your business, including extra stress on the staff who are left to pick up the pieces. Not to mention, customers and clients also suffer the consequences of poor service due to short staffing.

Leaders underperform

A McKinsey and Company article highlights that while other brain areas can cope reasonably well with too little sleep, the prefrontal cortex cannot. This is unfortunate for business leaders who lack sleep as this area of the brain is responsible for vital leadership functions including problem solving, developing insight, innovation, reasoning, decision making and planning.

The issue here is that many senior leaders aren’t getting the sleep they need. The same authors of the McKinsey paper found that 43% of business leaders aren’t getting enough sleep at least four nights a week.

Irritable and emotional people

You might have noticed in yourself that when you’re tired your mood can go downhill… fast. And the science proves this. A large body of research supports the connection between sleep deprivation and mood changes like increased anger and aggression. People who get enough sleep each night show fewer emotional outbursts, such as anger, and display fewer aggressive behaviours.

Our partners Sleepfit say that sleep is essential for emotional regulation, particularly the dream sleep towards the end of your 7 - 9 hours. Sleep provides the emotional stability to help workers assess situations realistically, remain calm under pressure and connect with others.

Is the potential for aggression good for the culture of your organisation? How much calmer and smoother could your operations be if your employees are getting adequate sleep?

Help them get some sleep… and help your organisation thrive

A Sleep Assessment – designed by experts and backed by the Sleep Health Foundation – can rapidly assess and address the sleep health of your organisation.  The results will provide you with an overview of your business’s sleep health risks and recommendations to support a targeted approach for your people. High-risk individuals can receive a referral letter for their GP as well as options to self-enrol into sleep condition management programs.

To find out more, or book your assessment, contact us at