Managing Fatigue

Safety Moment

How do I manage fatigue at work?

Between hectic schedules, stress and difficulty sleeping, many people find themselves fatigued during the workday. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your fatigue levels and stay more alert at work.

What is fatigue and how does it affect work?

Fatigue is described as the lack of energy and motivation in both the mental and physical aspect. In the workplace, fatigue may be due to prolonged hours of physical or mental activity, insufficient break time between shifts, excessive stress or a combination of these factors. 

Fatigue is often confused with drowsiness, which is the need to sleep. Although it may seem to be a minor hazard, accidents linked to fatigue have caused major industrial and environmental disasters.

What are the signs of fatigue at work?

  • Moodiness
  • A decrease in productivity, lack of motivation
  • A lack of concentration and increase in judgment errors, such as accidents, excessive risk taking, and failing to respond to changes within the surrounding environment
  • A loss of memory or the inadequate ability to recall details
  • Drowsiness, loss of energy, inability to stay awake or focus on tasks for longer periods of time

How can I reduce fatigue?

There are some easy strategies to follow that can help boost your energy and reduce fatigue at work. However, to fight fatigue long-term and make lasting effects on your life, it is recommended to incorporate healthy changes in your daily routine. For example, fatigue is generally caused by poor quality or inadequate quantity of sleep, and by making sleep a priority daily you are able to reduce your risk of fatigue.


Quick energy boosters can help boost your energy at work

  • Eat a snack that includes complex carbohydrates and protein. Avoid sugar, which will make you crash later. Eating light but frequent snacks or meals will help maintain consistent blood sugar levels and provide energy and focus throughout the day.
  • Get moving! A short walk can be very energizing and help get your blood flowing.
  • As much as your job allows, try to vary the activity in your day when fatigue sets in. Plan regular breaks throughout the day, which will increase work productivity and concentration.
  • Have a mini-meditation session at your desk. It can help you calm down and feel more alert.
  • Drink a glass of water. Water can boost your energy without leaving you restless like coffee and other caffeinated drinks can.

Make lifestyle changes outside of work

To fight fatigue long term and make lasting effects on your life, incorporate these healthy changes into your daily routine:

  • Balance your schedule. Accurately planning and balancing your schedule between work, family, and social activities will give you a clear view of each day and help you manage your stress to sleep better and feel less drained.
  • Eat nutritiously. Healthy food and portion sizes will help you stay energized. Don't skip meals or overeat, and always start your day with breakfast.
  • Limit your caffeine intake to one or two drinks per day. Contrary to popular belief, the intake of caffeine or sugar for energy can backfire, leaving you feeling more restless due to the fluctuation of your blood sugar levels.
  • Exercise regularly. This will increase your energy levels and also help you sleep better at night.
  • Avoid smoking. It lowers your energy level and can lead to serious respiratory and lung disease.


Improve your sleep habits and make sleep a priority

You are able to reduce your risk of fatigue by making sleep a priority. Fatigue is generally caused by poor quality or inadequate quantity of sleep.

  • Try to sleep 7-8 hours per night, even if that means rearranging your schedule. Most adults need 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every 24 hours. Once a sleep debt has been accrued, the only way to recover is rest.
  • Create a good sleep environment. This may include the temperature, noise level, and lighting. Avoid looking at screens such as televisions, mobile phones or devices in bed, as the light emitted can harm a good sleep environment.
  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. This will get your body into the habit of sleeping and waking up at the same time and improve your quality of sleep.
  • Limit caffeine, alcohol, big meals, and rigorous exercise close to bed time.

Although fatigue symptoms can sometimes be masked by caffeine, long term repercussions like burnout or psycho-social stress become increased risks over time. Protect yourself and your coworkers by stewarding your time well, especially your rest.