Construction worker suffering from fatigue

The Exhaustion at Work Epidemic: Fatigued on the Job

Fatigue. It’s long-term exhaustion, low energy and motivation which can be caused by sleep deprivation, diet, mental or physical illness. Yet many of us suffer in silence, accepting exhaustion at work as a result of living a busy life, but this shouldn’t be the case.

Feeling constantly drained isn’t normal — or acceptable. It’s a cry for help from your body or mind, and being in a constant state of exhaustion at work can damage your physical and mental health, taking a toll on your quality of life and relationships.

The Exhaustion Epidemic - fatigued on the job

A wake up call on exhaustion at work

Westfield Health recently surveyed over 1,000 UK working adults to examine fatigue and its effect on people in the workplace. Alarmingly, it shows that not only are we a nation suffering from tiredness and fatigue from our ‘always on’ working lifestyle, but we’ve got a culture that doesn’t accept or see it as a real issue.

Research shows that 1 in 5 people in the UK feel unusually tired, 1 in 10 have prolonged fatigue (Royal College of Psychiatrists) and 1 in 5 visits to the GP are related to tiredness and fatigue (National Hydration Council Survey of 300 GPs).

Our research shows that over 1 in 10 working Brits have purposefully taken a nap at work, almost half regularly turn up to their job feeling too tired to work, 3 in 10 have had an accident or made a serious mistake due to being tired at work, and 13% have even drifted to sleep whilst driving.

Respondents in the construction and manufacturing industry described trapping their hand in a machine due to fatigue, resulting in a disability, having an accident during a 66 hour week which resulted in a three day coma and irrationally getting angry at a colleague and firing them unduly.  

With stats like these, it’s clear to see there’s a real issue here, but 86% of survey respondents said that they are not able to speak openly and in confidence with their line manager about how being tired at work is impacting on their performance, and only 13% would consider tiredness or fatigue to be a genuine reason to call in sick.

But what can we do to tackle the effects of exhaustion at work?

One in six (16%) believe their employer could do more to reduce the risk of accidents and mistakes at work due to stress. Fatigue and tiredness is an issue that employers and particularly line managers should not overlook. Employers need to ensure there are clear health and safety regulations in place around fatigue, especially in industries that require high levels of concentration.

59% of people admitted that fatigue has made them less productive at work and made it difficult to concentrate, so it’s clearly in workplaces’ interest to support their colleagues. And, as our research highlights, the first step towards this is to create an open and honest culture where colleagues feel confident discussing the impact of fatigue on their performance at work.

Once employers better understand the impact of fatigue and exhaustion at work, they can support their people with appropriate interventions in a safe and understanding environment. The cultural change needs to come from leadership. Once the example has been set at the top, staff will feel more comfortable to talk about their struggles with fatigue and get the support they need quicker.  

If your workplace needs some support with health and wellbeing, we’re here to help with practical information and advice. Our insight-led health and wellbeing strategies can help you to support your staff’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, improve productivity, retain staff, and make your company a desirable place to work. Get in touch to see how we can support you.

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