don't let fatigue rule your day.

  • career advice
  • August 16, 2018

We get it: You want to earn money — ideally, a lot of it. And if that means working for long stretches of time, you're not alone. On average, Americans consistently put in more hours on the job than workers in Japan and most of Western Europe. What's more, nearly 19 percent of adults in the U.S work 48 hour or more per week, while another 7 percent work 60 hours or more per week, according to U.S. National Health Interview data.

That's a lot of hours.

And while all of that time might show up in welcome ways on payday, did you know that it also carries with it a lot of risk? It's true. In fact, researchers looking at a ton of bad outcomes — greater likelihood for on-the-job injury, increased risk of car crash and even large-scale industrial catastrophes like the 2005 BP America Refinery Explosion — have found that a contributing factor in each was the simple fact that people were overworked, tired and unfocused.

Want to hit your goals without going off the rails and working crazy-dangerous hours? No worries. For manufacturing and logistics pros on any schedule, Randstad has handy tips to help you succeed at work, be safe and avoid burnout.

get your 40 winks each night

If you rank among the roughly 38 percent of American workers who sleep fewer than seven hours per night, then the first step to feeling better, improving your on-the-job performance and decreasing your risk of injury and illness is in your hands — or, at least, in your bed. Simply put, you need a solid sleep each night in order to be your best at work.

know the signs you're slowing down

Next time you feel like a zombie at work, don't just shrug it off — consult this helpful checklist of fatigue symptoms. Any of these are indicators that you might be at at increased risk of accident or illness:

  • depression 
  • giddiness 
  • headache 
  • increased 
  • susceptibility to illness 
  • irritability 
  • lack of motivation 
  • loss of appetite
  • digestive problems 
  • diminished alertness, concentration and memory 
  • sleepiness 
  • weariness 

which factors affect risk?

Everyone's body is different, and some people may be able to handle more stress with less sleep than others. Nonetheless, the following factors generally influence the level of risk associated with work-related fatigue:

  • hours worked per shift 
  • number of consecutive shifts 
  • frequency of rest breaks 
  • type of shift (e.g., first, second, third, swing, etc.) 

risks add up with hours

By OSHA's definition, a normal work shift is "a work period of no more than eight consecutive hours during the day, five days a week, with at least an eight-hour rest period." Does that describe your work situation — or do you occasionally exceed a strictly 40-hour work week? If you do, you could be at risk.

Keep in mind that the more you exceed the standard of a normal shift, the greater your risk of fatigue-related accidents. For instance, working 12 hours per day increases your risk of injury by 37 percent, according to OSHA. So keep your wits about you.

don't just take breaks...

No doubt about it: brief rest breaks are the best way for workers to recharge, have some downtime and get back to work feeling alert. In fact, one study found that the risk of injury decreased by nearly 50 percent after rest breaks of any length. You should also take advantage of every break to eat a healthy snack if you’re hungry, and drink plenty of water — something like 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated, and that’s going to impair your productivity.

...take micro-breaks

If you're working longer-than-normal hours, your supervisor needs to work with you to make sure you and your coworkers are staying alert and safe. For one, that means having additional downtime or "micro-breaks" — frequent, brief breaks throughout the shift.

If that isn't possible, changing positions, getting up and moving about or shifting your concentration to something new can all help counteract fatigue.

key takeaways

When it comes to avoiding risks associated with feeling tired, sleep is your best friend. But there are other levers available to you — like the number of consecutive shifts you agree to and the hours you work — that can help keep you safe, healthy and working to reach your professional goals.

Americans are well known for putting in more hours on the job than their counterparts in much of the world. And while we're obviously proud of our work ethic, it's also true that going to work tired can have negative consequences — ranging from the mundane to the catastrophic.

In this infographic, Randstad breaks down everything manufacturing and logistics pros need to know to stay safe, avoid unnecessary risks and get the job done.

ways to avoid fatigue infographic