Employees sleeping on the job? It might just increase productivity and profit.

Is fatigue management part of your business strategy? More and more companies are shifting their focus to look at the business implications of employee fatigue and the need for company policies that promote getting a healthy dose of rest. In this week’s issue of MacLean’s magazine the cover story, The Secrets of Sleep, takes a closer look at the effects of fatigue on our daily lives.

In the interview with David Randall, author of Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep, he touches on workplace fatigue and the importance of acknowledging its presence. “So many companies are realizing it’s a global marketplace and they’re asking more of workers. For the longest time it was just we’ll work harder, drink more coffee, you know, push it to the next level. Now we know there are trade-offs,” he begins. “One fatigue-management-company president told me of a client, a train company, that was spending a small fortune in accident costs. Once they put in some simple fatigue-control policies – making sure people have mandatory break times, shift managers doing basic tests on employees to make sure they really were awake – accident costs plummeted.” 

Driver fatigue has long been recognized as a leading cause of accidents. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) drowsy driving represents somewhere between 10-30% of all crashes and result in 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses a year in the US alone. Because of this proven correlation between driving accidents and fatigue, most transport companies have strict procedures in place that make truck drivers take mandatory breaks and rest stops based on the amount of hours on the road and the time of day they’re driving.

But what about the stationary office worker?

According to Randall:

“Companies like Google and Nike have nap strategies. Google has amazing algorithms, but somebody had to come up with those, and they don’t want that person to go to Yahoo or Apple because he doesn’t like the working conditions or can’t do his or her best work. So they’re allowing their people to sleep more, even take naps at the office. That gives them a chance to synthesize what they learned, perhaps find a new solution. Research shows a short nap – not just resting or walking away for awhile, but actual sleep – will speed up a solution when you have an intractable problem, or if you’re learning a new technique or a new skill.”  

Managing your employee’s fatigue is often a matter of health and safety, but for some businesses it’s largely a matter of improving quality of work, productivity, and perhaps most importantly quality of life and job satisfaction for your valued employees.  

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