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Workers' Compensation

How to Manage Workplace Fatigue During COVID-19

Greg Andress
by Greg Andress on August 4, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has created a world of concerns, impacting almost every aspect of work and life. For many individuals, stress is at an all-time high with emerging worries about our physical health, concerns for our loved ones’ safety, and for some, longer work hours and added responsibilities. The strenuous demands of work, added to the stress brought on by COVID-19, is a recipe for mental and physical burnout leading to worksite mishaps.

Read on to learn ways you can help your employees manage workplace fatigue.

Improve Sleep. Make sure your employees understand that sufficient rest and recovery are the safest bet for beating fatigue during work hours. Adequate sleep is critical for on-the-job alertness, but it’s also important for boosting the immune system. The CDC recommends adults receive 7-9 hours of sleep per night, along with opportunities for rest while awake. Here are a few tips to relay to your employees to improve their sleep:

  • Avoid caffeine within 5 hours of bedtime, and big meals, nicotine, and alcohol within 2-3 hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid exposure to bright lights 90 minutes before bedtime, which can make you feel more awake.
  • Sleep in a room that is cool, dark, and quiet.
  • If you work a night shift, try taking a 90-minute nap before you begin your shift.

Educate Workers. Foster a safe work environment by educating your employees about the dangers of sleep deprivation in the workplace. Provide employees with resources and helpful tips to manage fatigue.

Use a Buddy System. While at work, have employees partner up. Encourage them to periodically check-in with one another to make sure they are both staying alert and on top of work demands. Be on the lookout for signs of fatigue, including excessive yawning, difficulty keeping eyes open, and trouble concentrating.

Open Communication. Create a work environment that encourages your employees to speak up about their sleep deprivation or fatigue. An employee that does not feel comfortable voicing their concern is likely to continue working, running the risk of a workplace injury or error. Consider posting the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (PDF) – a brief survey for employees to rate their fatigue – in an easily accessible area.

Have a Plan. As an employer, it’s important to have a plan in place if a worker is too fatigued to continue working. The plan may consist of rotating workers or reassigning shifts. Ensure this procedure does not punish your employee, especially when they have proactively come forward with concerns.

Be mindful that the current coronavirus pandemic has prompted a whirlwind of concerns and stressors for many individuals, and employers should take steps to reduce and manage workplace fatigue to avoid an unnecessary injury or error. For additional recommendations related to managing workplace fatigue during COVID-19, outlined by the CDC and shared by the American College of Cardiology, click here.

Greg Andress
Greg Andress

Greg Andress, Director of Risk Management Services for Frank Winston Crum Insurance, is a 30+ veteran of the insurance industry who has spent more than 20 years in risk management/loss control. With clients in many industries, Greg has developed proactive loss control programs, training materials and technical bulletins; and delivered training for hundreds of clients nationwide to help them understand how they can identify and control their total cost of loss.