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Dealing With Workplace Fatigue: Could It Be a Sign of Something More Serious?

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Did you know that almost half of all UK employees feel emotionally drained due to their day-to-day work? Fatigue is the new epidemic sweeping across countries, putting both businesses and the staff who keep them afloat at risk. But this doesn’t have to be a no-win situation. Identifying that workplace fatigue is a problem can push employers to learn how to deal with it, helping their team stay happy, healthy, and productive.

To learn more, we’ve put together everything you know about workplace fatigue, including when to know if there’s something more serious underlying the problem and how to help your team get back to their A-game.

What is Workplace Fatigue?

Workplace fatigue encompasses more than just feeling tired. In fact, it’s one of the most hazardous risks to employee well-being and costs employers an estimated £500 million a year, making it a top priority for everyone in the business world. 

When an employee is suffering from workplace fatigue, they experience unrelenting tiredness and lethargy at work. This could be felt throughout the entire day or hit them in productivity-killing bouts that get worse as the day progresses. Alongside tiredness, the employee will also frequently struggle to focus and feel unmotivated to work, drastically decreasing their drive.

The symptoms of workplace fatigue are similar to those of burnout. Your team member has lost their will to work and is feeling overwhelmed by daily tasks, causing their mental health to decline.

What Causes Workplace Fatigue?

There are a wealth of factors that can lead to staff feeling overwhelmingly tired at work. Irregular hours and night shifts that don’t align with their natural body clock, for example, and leave them lacking in sleep for long periods of time. People who regularly travel for work are also at higher risk of developing workplace fatigue.

There are also causes like:

  • Lack of fulfilling work

  • Repetitive work

  • Poor workplace environment

  • Stressful or demanding tasks (mental or physical)

  • Not enough breaks

These are all related directly to the workplace, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, fatigue can be caused by something more serious that isn’t related to the workplace at all.

Could Workplace Fatigue Be a Sign of Something Serious?

When the work environment isn’t causing fatigue, your employee likely has a personal issue that’s underlying their lethargy. 

Mental health issues, for example, are a major cause of workplace fatigue and should be dealt with as soon as possible. Be sure to provide support in your workplace and direct staff towards the right information so that they can receive the help they need. From anxiety to depression, mental health problems should always be taken seriously by employers.

Poor diet and nutrition issues are another cause of workplace fatigue. For example, if your employee is lacking in iron, one of the most common symptoms is intense tiredness. This may not sound serious, but if an iron deficiency is left untreated it can lead to a huge number of health issues and, in some cases, can even be fatal.

Other serious underlying causes of workplace fatigue include:

  • Alcoholism

  • Insomnia

  • Illness and disease

  • Sleep apnea

How to Spot Fatigue in Your Team

Workplace fatigue isn’t something that can be overlooked by employers, especially as it becomes an increasing global problem. Smartphones allowing for emails out of hours, more competitive work environments, and the cost of living rise are all adding to the stresses of daily life and leading to more employees and the businesses they work for suffering due to fatigue.

To ensure your team are always at their best, it’s vital you know how to spot the signs of workplace fatigue. The most common include:

  • Irritability

  • Taking longer breaks to sleep

  • Headaches

  • Decrease in productivity

  • Increased emotional responses

  • Increased mistakes and poor judgement calls

  • Disinterest in workplace activities

You may find staff members are taking more time off, too, with frequent absences the only way they can cope with working through their fatigue.

How to Help Staff Struggling with Workplace Fatigue

If you think that a member of staff is suffering, the first thing to do is talk to them. Express your concerns and let them know you’re there to help, without any judgement or discrimination. Be sure that they know that coming to you with an issue won’t lead to them losing their job, giving them the peace of mind they need to ask for help. 

Training your senior management in how to spot workplace fatigue and provide the correct support is another vital step. Make sure you and your management know how best to aid staff when they come to you, and that they understand why caring about wellbeing is so important.

Other great ways you can make your workplace better for your staff include:

  • Providing plenty of natural light

  • Ensuring all staff are given fulfilling tasks

  • Allowing flexibility in work hours

  • Providing remote work capabilities

  • Educating staff on self-care techniques

Final Words

As an employer or senior member of staff, there’s no doubt that workplace fatigue should be on your radar. With these tips, you should now be able to spot and support struggling staff, helping them get back to their best in no time. 

This blog was kindly written for us by Gemma Williams. Gemma works remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. She has gained experience in a number of HR roles but now turns her focus toward growing her personal brand and connecting with leading experts in the industry. Connect with her on Twitter: @GemmaWilliamsHR.

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