According to the National Sleep Foundation, 45% of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep affects their daily activities at least once a week. If you are one of those people, lack of sleep can lead to an array of side effects. Many of these side effects—shortened attention spans, increased stress, headaches—are temporary and can be cured with a cup of coffee or good night’s sleep. However, continued poor or insufficient sleep can lead to serious long-term ailments such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease, leaving a lasting mark on your health and day-to-day life.
In addition to sleep deprivation, as we go about our day we expend cognitive resources, leaving us mentally exhausted by the end of the day. This can be especially true for workers who have multiple jobs or unconventional schedules, where switching between roles and long hours can be mentally and physically draining. Although workers from across industries experience fatigue, those with inconsistent schedules have increased risk of workplace injury. As seasonal busy periods boost traffic for many companies, it is important that employers protect employees from fatigue brought about by hectic schedules and extended hours.
Many businesses often go on a hiring spree for seasonal workers. While this can be a good opportunity for workers to make some extra income, individuals working more than one job each week are particularly vulnerable to occupational fatigue. In some cases, stringing together shifts may add up to a 16-hour workday—with overtime hours directly correlating with the increase risk of injury. Double or triple shifts mean workers with multiple jobs face elevated risk in and out of the workplace, compounded by long commutes and the stress of constantly changing roles. In fact, according to a study conducted by the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, multiple job holders have a 27% higher rate of work-related injuries and a 34% higher rate of non-work related injuries.
While many businesses hire extra help for busy times of the year, other industries require extra employee coverage to meet higher quotas and demands. But overtime shifts, particularly when worked consecutively, can disrupt an individual’s schedule and often lead to inadequate rest. Even if companies are aware of how frequently their employees work extended shifts, it can be difficult to regulate the schedules of multiple jobholders.
To help protect those with unconventional schedules, companies should encourage transparency among employees and provide flexibility in the scheduling process. Worker wellbeing is just good business: By implementing measures to allow for adequate rest during and between shifts, companies can better protect employees and themselves from the risks associated with occupational fatigue.
For many businesses, 24-hour employee coverage and night shifts are often unavoidable and part of normal business operations. But without careful planning and coordination, unpredictable shift work can take a toll on worker wellbeing. In fact, the risk of injury increases dramatically after an 8-hour work shift.
Workers who alternate shift hours often have difficulty maintaining a healthy sleep schedule. This is especially true for those employees who frequently work night shifts: when given a day off, most people return to a daytime schedule, making it difficult for the body to fully adjust. Disrupted sleep patterns produce fatigue. According to another study by the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, there is a 27.9% increase in work-related injuries during night shifts when compared to morning shifts.
To help avoid occupational fatigue and prevent workplace accidents, employers should assign consistent schedules and opt for daytime shifts when possible. As a start, employees should not be asked to work more than six consecutive day shifts or four consecutive night shifts. Ideally, they should be given at least two consecutive days of rest in between. Frequent breaks can help reduce injury risk, particularly for individuals performing physically demanding or repetitive tasks.
Help protect your employees and business by taking proactive steps to address fatigue. Working with your employees to create the best schedules for both their health and your business can make your workplace safe and healthy—for everyone.
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This article was produced on behalf of Liberty Mutual by Quartz Creative and not by the Quartz editorial staff.