Fatigue: identifying and preventing it

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At one time or another, most people will experience feeling exhausted, have a general lack of energy and find it difficult to start or continue activities or job tasks – this is fatigue. Fatigue is typically more due to physical exertion. It will leave you tired, but without the emotional and mental drain that burnout brings. 

Fatigue is a symptom rather than a condition, and can be caused by any number of factors, including:

  • Lifestyle – not getting enough sleep or physical activity, eating an unhealthy diet.
  • Medical conditions – fatigue is a symptom of many medical conditions.
  • Work – having an over-stressful job, feeling uncertain in your employment, shift work.
  • Psychological causes – fatigue can be a symptom of some mental health concerns, such as depression, and grief.

What are signs of fatigue?

Signs that someone is suffering from fatigue can be emotional, psychological and/or physical, and include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Lack of motivation

How is fatigue treated?

You can help reduce fatigue by:

  • Exercising daily
  • Eating a balanced, healthy diet
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Mitigating stressful situations at work
  • Drinking more water
  • Ruling out any medical causes – see a medical professional
  • Talking to a counsellor or therapist

How can I recognise fatigue in myself and my employees?

There are a number of signs you can look out for, including:

  • Difficulty with decision-making
  • Low productivity
  • Lack of motivation
  • Reduced alertness and attention to detail
  • Increased absenteeism – calling in sick

What can I do in the workplace to help prevent fatigue?

  • Do a risk assessment and identify potential causes of fatigue – tight deadlines, dealing with the public, job insecurity, long shifts.
  • Take steps to mitigate or eliminate the potential causes of fatigue.
  • Ensure employees are clear on job expectations.
  • Encourage employees to disconnect from work.
  • Educate employees on the signs and symptoms of fatigue, and how to recognise them.
  • Ensure the workplace is safe and respectful.
  • Provide healthy snacks for employees, to help them eat a balanced diet. 

While the workplace may not be the cause of the fatigue, ensuring that an employee gets the supports they require will keep them healthy and safe in their work, reducing the risks of accidents, dips in productivity, and costly mistakes. 

Don’t forget to also take care of yourself. As a business owner, manager, or supervisor you may also experience fatigue. It is important to listen to your body to ensure your own optimal wellness.