fatigue

A lack of sleep – is it making your business drowsy?

The effect of a 24/7 society is a worry when it comes to sleep duration and quality, or the trend to a lack of! The 2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults highlighted that sleep problems are becoming more common. Sure, the report is one from 2016, but our take on that is that it simply means that you have had more time to do something!

 

Unsurprisingly, a lack of sleep was found to impact worker performance, with 29% of adults in the study reporting they have made errors at work due to sleepiness or sleep problems.

 

With 29% of persons reporting that they drive whilst drowsy, it is no surprise to workplaces that 1 in 5 people reported that they have nodded off when driving, whilst 1 in 4 of these people reporting to have had an accident in the past 12 months due to fatigue!

 

Don’t think for a second that no drivers, no issues! Fatigue was found to influence absenteeism figures, with 17% reporting to have missed work due to feeling sleepy. That will sure impact your bottom line!

 

These stats are alarming for any business when it comes to ensuring not only a productive workforce, but one that can go home safely at the end of each day.

So, what can be done? Given dedicated siesta times are probably not practical, here are some other considerations for you:

  1. Have managers and supervisors regularly check-in with their teams to ensure they are on track to deliver. If they are struggling, this may allow you to make adjustments to resources.
  2. Establish procedures where emails sent before 8 am and after 6 pm are discouraged. If there are workers working outside of these times, encourage them to delay the delivery of work emails until the next day – if you wouldn’t phone to tell the news, then you shouldn’t email!
  3. Encourage your leaders to leave loudly and on time. Let you workforce know this is ok.
  4. Be flexible and aware that family situations and/or travel (i.e. changes to public transport); both of these can result in early starts and/or late finishes. In fact, we previously wrote a blog about working dads, and methods that you can use to support their return to the workplace.
  5. As always, you may consider undertaking a toolbox talk and/or training (as part of a wellbeing campaign) on sleep. Provide your workers to understand the physiological importance.
  6. Consideration sleep disorder screening for higher risk work workers such as those in transport, shift work and heavy machinery operators…

 

This is by no means everything. We would love to hear any other tips/tricks/programs you have used.

 

Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite!

Are you ensuring your workers are hydrated?

The arrival of the summer months, means the festive period quickly follows and consumes us all. This period also leads to a lot of people indulging in multiple alcoholic beverages and little amounts of water. When your workers return to work are you doing what you can to provide them with plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration?

 

Dehydration is what happens when you use or lose more fluid then you can take in and your body is unable to function effectively. This can occur after strenuous exercise, sickness, drinking too much alcohol, taking certain medicine such as diuretics, as a complication of diabetes or if enough water has not been consumed.

 

Some signs of dehydration can be a heightened thirst, dry mouth, lips and tongue, a headache, dark urine, dizziness or light-headedness, particularly when standing up.

 

If your workers are involved in more strenuous activities and/or are working outside in the extreme temperatures, then you need to be aware of what dehydration looks like, but also all ways to prevent dehydration from occurring in the first place!

 

So, some ideas;

 

IDEA 1

Providing a urine chart such as the one below for your workers can help them keep track of their hydration throughout the day and know how much more water they require if they are dehydrated. A chart like this easily be positioned in bathrooms or on noticeboards – if you would like us to send you one of our posters, contact us.

 

 

IDEA 2

Provide your workers with access to fluids – this may be via a water cooler, bottled water or pre-made hydration solutions. Don’t forget to provide them with a facility to keep their drinks cool, such as a fridge or ice if they are working outdoors. If you have workers working remote and pre-made solutions are not available or have run out within the business, another option is to place 6 teaspoons of sugar with half a teaspoon of salt in one litre of boiled water.

 

 

IDEA 3

Try reducing exposure to the heat. This means you can reduce sweating, which means, yes, you are also managing hydration. To do this, try adjusting the hours of work so that physically demanding work is completed at the cooler times of the day. Or provide access to shade – if work is being completed outside – or fans – if inside.

 

 

Learn more about the impact of heat stress or about what kind of SPF rating you should be considering for your workers through more of our blog articles.

So, you want to do something to encourage better mental health in your workplace?

Recently, The Black Dog Institute published an article about a study that showed strong evidence that training managers within workplaces about mental health can have a positive effect on improving occupational wellbeing for employees. But not only that, the study also indicated positive financial outcomes for businesses too! Great! No excuse now…

 

“Having a supportive manager can make a huge difference to a person’s mental wellbeing and giving basic mental health training to managers can bring significant changes to both confidence and behaviour among staff.”

Associate Professor Samuel Harvey

Workplace Mental Health Research Program, The Black Dog Institute

 

So, if you’ve started to wonder “how can I actually start to do something about supporting a mentally healthy workplace?” here’s some more info for you. We are lucky in Australia because we’ve got quite a few amazing organisations and institutions out there with loads of free information and tools to help you out.

 

The key one to point you to is the Heads Up Initiative. This has been developed by the ‘Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance’ – an Australian Government initiative – and beyondblue to get both business leaders and everyone for that matter to play their part in building mentally healthier working environments.

 

So, check out the Heads Up website for a stack of free resources, information, FAQs, and avenues to get further training or learn more. And find more resources from R U OK who have a heap of free every day resources along with campaign materials than can help you to initiate that first conversation in the office.

 

And, if you are after more information about creating a healthier and safer workplace for your people, check out the work of all of those organsiations that make up the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance. Many of which have more information, tools and resources to help you out; like The Black Dog Institute, Mental Health Australia, Safe Work Australia and SANE.

 

 

And let’s not forget that managing everything to do with supporting happier, healthier and safer workplaces is well, just, easier with Safety Champion Software – helping you to keep it all ticking along and under control! Have a free trial today!

 

What on earth is ‘presenteeism’?

Certainly, when managing business, we take into account the impact of paid staff leave from both a financial and productivity point of view. We know the cost to the bottom line, how to manage the workload as our workers take their owed annual leave, how to pick up the slack quickly if someone is unexpectedly off sick, and we have the tools in place to properly track and monitor leave days. But have you thought about the impact of presenteeism? And, more, how to best manage it when it starts to happen?

 

While researching this blog, we actually found a lot of evidence (data mainly from USA) to suggest that presenteeism can have a larger impact on the operational and financial health of a business in comparison to sick leave – which is largely already taken in consideration by most businesses. Ok, so what are these two?

 

Absenteeism is when your workers are not actually in the workplace due to illness, planned leave, family emergencies, or other unplanned events like jury duty. It can become an issue to a business when the number of absent days exceeds what a business has allowed for as reasonable.

 

Presenteeism is when your workers still come to the workplace – only they are not actually working but are rather there in ‘presence’ only. In this case, workers could be ill, lacking motivation, overworked, etc.

 

So, what can you do about presenteeism to avoid this huge and, well, unaccounted for, impact to your business? Here are a few of suggestions – and no surprise – they are all related to ensuring you support the maintenance of a safe, happy and healthy workplace!

 

  1. Encourage your workers to maintain their health!

Suggest flu shots in winter, promote good hand hygiene (put some posters up in those bathrooms), send your workers home when they are showing signs of cold or flu, get a fruit box and support healthy eating, etc. Essentially, the healthier your staff, the better for everyone!

 

  1. Check in with your workers about their workload often.

Don’t expect your staff to always come forward when they are overworked and stressed. Also, don’t expect them to come forward if they feel underworked or believe they have more capacity. Try to actively start that conversation and encourage your managers and team leads to do the same. Motivate your workers. Help them to understand what the right balance is. After all, it is useless to overload a worker when this will actually have the opposite effect, demotivating them to do anything at all.

 

  1. Look out for the signs of poor mental or physical health.

This is tricky, but presenteeism can be common for people with health issues that are not overly visible to an employer, such as depression, anxiety or chronic pain issues and disease. So, this is about maintaining good and open communication with your workers, and trying to determine a way that will better support your staff if these kinds of health issues are present. Things like allowing your workers to work from home might assist or guiding them towards getting proper help.

 

So, there are just a few ideas from us. But really, the best way to manage presenteeism, and absenteeism for that matter, is good communication with your workers and maintaining a happy, healthy and safe workplace for all.

 

One way to improve overall wellbeing in your business today

There is no question about it – looking after the health and wellbeing of both you and your people is quite simply good for business. You’ve likely heard all about the trendy, multinational businesses like Google, HSBC, and Facebook promoting their employee wellbeing initiatives to making sure their people are supported to keep a positive work-life balance. But, what can us smaller guys – without the budgets and time to get awesome initiatives off the ground – really do to keep our staff happy and healthy?

 

Well, we would argue that the first place you should start is, perhaps, with yourself. Sounds harsh but a recent article on ABC News pointed out that many Australian SME owners may be putting health and wellbeing on the backburner and are commonly experiencing fatigue, stress and loss of motivation because of their work. Not an ideal situation.

 

Now think about the expression ‘leading by example’. It’s not really a stretch to think that in some cases, the poor experiences of business owners may be negatively influencing their workers as well. For example, if the boss is working long hours, it’s possible they are building a culture of long work hours across the board. And if the boss has low morale and is frustrated, then their people may feel equally as low.

 

So if you want to build positive health and wellbeing into your business, then what we suggest you do first is look after yourself. Look at the way you act in the office. Walk the talk. Eat well. Be mindful. Talk nicely. Work appropriate hours. Understand that what you feel on a daily basis is likely to be reflected onto your teams. Stop and think about how you might be perceived by your workers. And if you notice some bad habits that don’t do you any favours, consider changing them so you can set the example for a happy and healthy in the workplace.

 

After all, investing in people, including you, is simply good for business.

Ways to reduce the risks of fatigue in your workplace.

There’s no denying that the 24/7, ‘always on’ world we are now living in is becoming more than a worry when it comes to both our mental and physical health and wellbeing. And one of the biggest worries is sleep – or more specifically, the lack thereof! A recent report released by the Sleep Health Foundation highlighted that the daytime consequences of inadequate sleep are increasingly common, affecting up to 45% of the population. So that made us wonder – what does this mean for health and safety in the workplace?

 

Unsurprisingly, the report revealed that a lack of sleep can affect worker performance. Scarily, 29% of adults in the study reported that they had made errors at work due to sleepiness or sleep problems. While 17% reported that they missed work due to feeling sleepy. So, encouraging good quality sleep is clearly important for any business looking to optimise productivity and worker performance.

 

But it goes further than this. Many workplaces need to manage high consequence hazards that may be heavily impacted by fatigue. One of the key hazards, common to many roles and workplaces, is driving. On this point, the Sleep Health Foundation report revealed some alarming stats with 29% of people reporting that they have driven whilst drowsy and 20% actually nodded off whilst doing it. But worse still, 5% of the respondents reported having had an accident in the past 12 months due to dozing off! So, if driving is part of your workers role, or is even simply the way they get to and from work, supporting your workers to get better sleep is vital.

 

So what can you do? Whilst we’d all love to provide a room full of hammocks, nap pods like Google, or a dedicated siesta time, it’s unfortunately not practical for all workplaces! So below are some simple and effective considerations to help you manage the impact of fatigue on your workers:

 

Talk to your workers

Learn whether the work itself might be a contributing factor to the sleep quality of your workers. Discover whether there are tasks that your workers identify as dangerous or difficult when they are fatigued. Talking to your workers will help you identify the health and safety hazard, so you can establish a process to control it and manage the risks.

 

Change your workplace culture

Don’t disadvantage workers who turn their phone or email off when they leave the office. And don’t just say this, actively encourage it by setting the example yourself and communicating about the importance of switching off to allow for proper rest and recuperation.

 

Provide workers with information

The Sleep Health Foundation has over 75 fact sheets that can guide and inform you. Use these to lead a health and safety toolbox talk with your workers, or print a few of the most relevant ones to pin up in the staff kitchen.

 

Establish a Driving for Work Policy

This is a guideline that maps out safe distances to be travelled within specific time periods, start and finish times, car safety ratings should there be an incident, etc. It can help to manage the risks of driving while on the job.

 

Sleep disorder screenings

For higher risk workers, such as those who work in transport, shift work, or operate heavy machinery, consider whether a sleep disorder screening could be of benefit. This may be pre-employment or routinely during employment and can help you to manage the risks.

 

 

However, as you explore the workplace factors that may contribute to fatigue risks, remember that it’s not only work related tasks that contribute. The fatigue hazard exists whether it is a result of work or non-work related activity. So, watch out for other personal or home-related factors such as workers with newborn babies or stress.

 

Check out this useful factsheet about fatigue as an occupational hazard to help you make sure you are on top of managing the risks.