Exhausted at work … The new workplace epidemic? - HR Future helps people prepare for the Future of Work and is South Africa's leading print, digital and online Human Resources magazine.

Exhausted at work … The new workplace epidemic?


It's time for a wake-up call: Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of U.S. workers say they work while tired, with nearly one-third (31 per cent) saying they do so very often, according to a new survey by staffing firm Accountemps.
The costs of working tired – both for professionals and the businesses they work for – are high: Respondents cite lack of focus or being easily distracted (52 per cent), procrastinating more (47 per cent), being grumpy (38 per cent) and making more mistakes (29 per cent) among the consequences.

Work may not be the only issue keeping people up at night, but it's critical for managers to take action. There is no upside to having an exhausted team at work. Talk to your employees individually to come up with solutions.

These discussions can yield a number of ideas to help remedy the situation. Offering a more flexible schedule may alleviate long and costly commutes. Bringing temporary staff on board may cut down on working after-hours. Reorganising current priorities may lead to more manageable workloads.

Failing to take action can lead to big problems such as burnout, turnover and a negative corporate culture, along with lost sales and productivity.

Additional points:

Younger workers might be burning the midnight oil. 86 per cent of professionals between the ages of 18 and 34 admitted to being sleepy at work often, compared to 71 per cent of workers ages 35 to 54 and only 50 per cent of respondents ages 55 and older. Slightly more men (77 per cent) than women (71 per cent) said they often work while tired.

55 per cent of workers said they would use a nap room if their employer offered one. Two percent said their employer already provides a nap room and they take advantage of it.

33 per cent of workers who said they would not take advantage of a nap room cited the following reasons: It might make them sleepier (46 per cent), they don't want to be perceived as a slacker (35 per cent), and they worry about not getting their work done (34 per cent).

Professionals admitted to – or heard of others – making the following mistakes due to being tired on the job:

- Made a $20,000 mistake on a purchase order;
- Deleted a project that took 1,000 hours to put together;
- Accidentally reformatted a server;
- Fell asleep in front of the boss during a presentation;
- Missed a decimal point on an estimated payment and the client overpaid by $1 million;
- Accidentally paid everyone twice;
- Talked about a client thinking the phone was on mute … it wasn't; and
- Ordered 500 more computers than were needed.

The following tips are for managers for maintaining a well-rested staff:

- Manage workloads. Meet with employees regularly to evaluate what's on their plates and set priorities and realistic expectations based on business needs. If there's too much work to go around, consider bringing in temporary help to keep projects moving forward while relieving the burden on full-time staff.
- Encourage employees to take breaks. Some professionals might choose to forgo breaks to get their work done. But remind staff that a tired employee isn't an effective or productive one – they need an occasional time-out to recharge.
- Consider making meaningful changes. Implementing flexible schedules and telecommuting options or providing rest areas in the building can make a big difference for workers.
- Lead by example. As a manager, employees take their cues from you, so set a good example. Take sporadic breaks, get away from your desk and work normal business hours. Your staff will likely follow suit.

Bill Driscoll is a district president for Accountemps.

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