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  • WRITTEN BY Jorge Rojas POSTED ON December 10,2012

Any business owner or executive can tell you that nothing can stymie productivity more than a distracted worker. In these times of economic uncertainty, the pressure on employees is greater than ever. Two of the most disruptive variables that administrators have to concern themselves with is staff stress and fatigue. Since there are many factors to deal with for each, businesses that have a plan on how to best manage stress and fatigue are often employers that people want to work for.
A study by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that up to 79% of people suffer from daily stress and anxiety. Whether the stress comes from the work or the workplace, there are certain amounts of stress that any employee is expected to endure. The fact is, that stress in the workplace is not only unavoidable, in moderation it can be a beneficial stimulant to productivity. Once an employee’s stress becomes too acute, it will quickly become a distraction and is sure to be a hindrance to an employee’s productivity.

To understand how best to fight the affects that workplace stress can have on your employees, you first have to understand what stress is. Stress is a physical response to adversity. Once the body starts to feel stressed only then do the debilitating emotional factors present themselves. Managing individual stress requires understanding how stress affects the body and the mind and how to identify warning signs. Some physical warning signs are:

  • Dry mouth
  • Respiratory problems
  • Upset stomach
  • Headache

Some of the emotional responses that come from taking on too much stress include:

  • Irritability
  • Lapses in concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Over/under eating
  • Tension

When a member of your staff is under a great deal of stress; where it is no longer a motivating factor to complete good work, it can quickly become a detriment to that employee’s productivity. These stress-related distractions can cost your company thousands of dollars annually. In order to avoid the pitfalls that come with the lack of productivity that stressed-out employees present, your company may decide to make it a priority to find a solution to help your employees manage their stress. One option is to be cognizant of and acknowledge the amount of stress your employees are under, and set up a stress management program. A stress-related employee assistance program (EAP) improves the ability of employees to cope with difficult work situations. A stress management EAP can teach workers the best practices of how to deal with work related stress.
Another variable that can hinder workplace productivity is fatigue. When a worker is tired, it dramatically increases the chances that they will be less productive, and they will be more apt to make mistakes or accidents. Sometimes it’s just not possible for a person to get the necessary amount of rest, having a system in place to educate your employees on the effects of sleep deprivation will help them foresee the warning signs and take appropriate actions. Studies have shown that even mild sleep deprivation over multiple days can leave a person with the cognitive abilities of someone that is legally drunk.

Instituting a Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) is a good way to manage your employee’s fatigue. A FRMS is a structured and documented coordination between your company’s management, human resources department, and staff to find the best practices to limit workplace accidents and help remedy the drop in productivity that goes hand-in-hand with employee fatigue. A FRMS allows a company to review and find solutions for business practices that may increase workplace fatigue risk, inspect potential consequences of fatigue on particular departments within your workplace, and calculate fatigue-related losses.

Another way business administrators can combat employee fatigue is by instituting alternate scheduling tactics. Most employees face the demands of family, school, community, and lengthy commutes on top of their work-related responsibilities. Offering scheduling options, such as rotating schedules, or something as simple as four-ten hour shifts, can make all the difference for your employees to find the time to get the rest they need to best do their jobs.

Some benefits that introducing alternate schedules can provide your business include:

  • Compressing Service Hours: Compressing your employees’ work schedules to 4 days of 10 hour shifts instead of the traditional 5 days of 8 hour shifts, gives employees an extra day of rest.
  • Expanded Use of Existing Infrastructure: Compressed workday schedules can allow you to open up integral high-demand resources and infrastructure (machines, computers, etc.).
  • Improve Employee Knowledge: Employees that cover shifts for co-workers are given the opportunity to learn new skills. Cross-training allows employees to become more useful in peak business times or when co-workers aren’t able to be at work (illness, vacation, leave, etc.).
  • Reduce Tardiness and Absenteeism: Alternative scheduling helps boost employee morale and gives employees incentive to maximize their production while they’re at work.

Traditionally, it’s been an individual’s responsibility to get enough rest to avoid fatigue and to be able to manage their own stress levels, but by offering employees beneficial resources that can help them deal with stress and fatigue, you can get the most out of your workers. Have you tried any of these methods to alleviate workplace stress and fatigue? Are you tired and stressed out right now? Tell us about it in the comments!

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