Imagine it’s a sunny Sunday afternoon. Your kids, family, romantic partner have left you alone with a list of things to accomplish before they return. It all seems a bit daunting, and the couch is just sitting there, basking in the sunshine, and it has your name written all over it. So, you decide to take a nap instead.
Just as you are slipping off into dreamland, your phone rings. Startled, you wake up and groggily answer the phone, “Hello?”.
On the other end, a familiar voice says, “Oh, sorry! Did I wake you?”.
If you’re anything like most of us, you are probably quick to respond, “No! I wasn’t sleeping!”.
- Why don’t we prioritize sleep in our lives?
- Why are we afraid to admit when we do prioritize sleep?
- Why don’t we talk about the impact fatigue has on our workforce?
We recently spoke with Sleep & Fatigue Specialist, Clinton Marquardt, to uncover the truth about the impact of fatigue on our health, safety, and productivity. Clinton is has been working in this area for close to 30 years. He started his career in the clinical realm, working in sleep disorder centres. He has worn many hats over the years, including as a Fatigue Specialist for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Clinton went out on his own 9 years ago to help progressive organizations with fatigue management to ultimately make workplaces healthier, safer, and to increase people’s performance.
This Q&A session is one you won’t want to miss, uncovering 4 hidden costs of fatigue and how employers can manage them.
Q&A with Sleep & Fatigue Specialist, Clinton Marquardt
Q: What does everyone need to know about the physical impact of fatigue?
A: The impact of fatigue kicks in long before you feel fatigued. At a low level, there’s no physical evidence that you’re fatigued. Your eyes aren’t blinking slowly, your neck muscles are not yet relaxing, but your performance is starting to become affected and potentially impaired. During this stage, we see reaction time slow and the ability to stay focused becomes difficult. If you’re driving a truck for work and you’re a little bit fatigued, you may not notice, but you’re driving performance is not going to be stellar. It’s important that employers realize these effects and how to recognize them before they set in.
Q: What is the key takeaway for employers in terms of fatigue risk management?
A: The main thing to take away is to think about the hidden costs associated with fatigue that are not always measured.
- People who are more fatigued take more sick time. They show up at work and they don’t get quite as much done or they have more errors that may or may not turn into an incident. They could make even small errors, like an accounting error, that doesn’t get caught but could cost a company thousands of dollars.
- There are critical long-term effects on our health and well being that comes from fatigue and poor sleep. Researchers are seeing strong links between prolonged exposure to fatigue and serious illnesses like dementia. For example, people who have poor sleep or exposed to fatigue for long periods of time (perhaps through shift work) have higher rates of Alzheimer’s. We also see that they have higher rates of cancers (all types of cancers).
- If fatigue makes people less healthy, they are also more likely to get colds and flus. In these critical times, especially with Covid-19, there’s even suggestion, that we’re more susceptible to some of these pretty serious viruses going around as well.
- Organizations with greater fatigue have poor organizational cultures. Think about how you feel when you’re fatigued and how you react to other people. You might be cranky, a little short with others, now think about a whole organization with fatigued people and what that might do to the organizational culture.
Q: How does education help employers manage these hidden costs?
A: We know from studies around basic fatigue training that education and training is successful, to varying degrees, in changing people’s behaviour. If you give people the right information and right tools to use, they can make different decisions, which may impact some of these hidden costs.”
Online Fatigue Risk Management Training
SureHire and Rebel Sleep Institute have come together to offer employers a solution. Our online, Intro to Fatigue micro-module is an awareness-level program designed to increase how much people think about sleep in their daily activities, and to provide tips for better managing fatigue at work. This interactive module discusses:
- sleep disorders;
- the psychological health effects of sleep on our behaviour;
- how diet, nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle choices can affect sleep;
- the effect our environment has on sleep; and
- how to manage fatigue when it sets in during inopportune times.