Why is being aware of fatigue important?

More than 3.5 million people are employed as shift workers in the UK. They work in a wide variety of industries including the emergency services, healthcare, the utilities, transport, manufacturing (including oil, gas & chemical industries), entertainment and retail. Poorly designed shift-working arrangements and long working hours that do not balance the demands of work with time for rest and recovery can result in fatigue, accidents, injuries and ill health.

Fatigue refers to the issues that arise from excessive working time or poorly designed shift patterns. It is generally considered to be a decline in mental and/or physical performance that results from prolonged exertion, sleep loss and/or disruption of the internal clock. It is also related to workload, in that workers are more easily fatigued if their work is machine-paced, complex or monotonous.

Symptoms of fatigue

  • Rubbing of the eyes
  • Forgetting instructions
  • Long eye blinks
  • Yawning
  • Not talking to co-workers
  • Inability to solve routine work problems
  • Irritability
  • Sleepiness (including involuntary sleep onset)
  • Inability to concentrate or memorize
  • Lack of motivation
  •  Headaches

Managing fatigue

Fatigue is a significant problem in modern society, largely because of high workplace demands, long duty periods, disrupted circadian rhythms, social and societal demands, and insufficient sleep (Luckhaupt, 2012). It is a complex phenomenon that occurs as a function of time awake, time-of-day, workload extremes, health, and on-the-job and off-duty responsibilities and lifestyle. Fatigue is an inevitable consequence of modern society for a variety of reasons.

Self-help techniques for fatigue

  • Eating often and well – Keeping your energy up throughout the day is important, especially if you are on your feet often (e.g. nurses, social workers, police officers etc.) Eat regular meals or a healthy snack every 3 to 4 hours.
  • Moving and exercise – If your role is more sedentary, in particular those who are working from home, consider some bodyweight exercises (squats/lunges/pushups/pullups) for 15 minutes. Regular exercise will make you feel less tired overall, with small amounts initially and then gradually increased. Even taking a break to walk helps!
  • Weight management – Sometimes excess weight can be exhausting to carry and put a strain on the cardiovascular system. If possible, it is something to consider in managing fatigue and general wellbeing.
  • Cutting out caffeine or alcohol – This may be difficult but a gradual decrease in these substances may show a positive effect. It’s always good to try as your body may have built up a tolerance which could also be affecting your fatigue.
  • Talking therapies – This could help people who constantly feel exhaustion. Cognitive behavioural therapy can support those who feel like their fatigue is more chronic. Get in touch with one of our advisors for more information.
  • Drink more water – It may seem obvious, but we can all forget to stay properly hydrated. Carry a water bottle with you while at work or download an app that will remind you to drink.

Updated on: 21/04/2022