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Managing fatigue whilst working

Female bus driver smiling at the camera

We all feel it sometimes, when your eyes get tired, you start to lose the motivation to work and you’re just counting down the minutes until you can leave. Some of the factors you may feel this is from is not getting a good night sleep, stressful life events or just been working a long shift.

Fatigue at work can be a major issue for you and many other workers, it can leave you feeling stressed and have a huge impact on how you perform at work. It can increase the risk of accidents, mistakes and hazards happening at work. But what if we tell you that there are ways you can manage workplace fatigue and minimise its effect for the future?

Addressing the Problem:

When you are working a long shift, you may want to feel alert and productive with a lot of energy. You don’t want to feel exhausted from the workload or bogged down by personal life admin and issues.

We’re going to highlight the three types of fatigue here and the ways you can work around them.

SKYbrary website describes the 3 types of fatigue:

  1. Transient fatigue is acute fatigue brought on by extreme sleep restriction or extended hours awake within 1 or 2 days. E.g. a poor night sleep or barely getting any sleep

  2. Cumulative fatigue is fatigue that is brought on by repeated mild sleep restriction or extended hours awake across a series of days. E.g. a few cumulative days of poor rest

  3. Circadian fatigue refers to the reduced performance during nighttime hours, particularly during an individual’s “window of circadian low” (typically between 2:00 a.m. and 05:59 a.m.).

Research shows that the accumulation of "sleep debt", e.g. by having an hour less of sleep for several consecutive days, needs a series of days with more-than-usual sleep for a person to fully recover from cumulative fatigue.

In the UK, The Health and Safety Executive have estimated that fatigue costs £115-£240 million each year in work-related incidents and is implicated in around 20% of accidents on our major roads.

Long hours shift' has also been listed as the 7th most common cause of work-related stress compared to being 1st in 2018 according to a 2020 survey conducted by Perkbox.

Some of the significant workplace accidents that occurred is the Clapham Junction rail disaster, the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the loss of the Challenger space shuttle.

How do people usually manage fatigue at work?

The common ways people may choose to manage feeling fatigue at work could be them drinking caffeine, going for a short stroll or even having a cigarette.

The common ways Rest Space have found people manage fatigue at work is drinking caffeine, going for a short stroll, diving into sugary snacks or even having a cigarette. These coping mechanisms are not always the best solutions providing only short term relief, if any. With too much caffeine often compounding the problem by affecting night time sleep.

For those who recognise the benefits of napping they often struggle to find a space at work. We have found the toilet is the top spot most people try to get some rest.

Strategies for Workplace Fatigue:


Napping at work is the most consistently recommended solution to fatigue at work. The benefits are that it increases your alertness and improves your work performance. The chances of incidents occurring at work and hazards happening is unlikely due to the fact that you are alert.

A sleep neurologist, Aarthi Ram, MD says “Napping for just 20 minutes may provide ample benefits, including improved alertness, mood, and vigilance”.

The challenge for many workers is having suitable spaces in their work environments to nap. Often naps they would have on sofas or in toilets may not leave them as revitalised as they should. A Rest Space or dedicated resting environment will allow them to get the full benefits of a nap.

Improving your night time sleep

We know you may find it difficult sometimes to get a good night's sleep on a daily basis but getting 7 to 9 hours sleep per night for yourself can be beneficial for health, it can allow you to stay productive and alert throughout your work shift, this will be great and reduce the rate of you causing accidents which can then lead to injury.

Things you can do to improve night time sleep:

Educating employees

Educating all employees on the signs of fatigue at work could be a good strategy for employers to consider. Understand what needs to be done to help reduce the employee’s fatigue, this is so that they pose less of a risk to themselves and to their co-workers. Create a culture where it is safe to discuss fatigue issues and employees feel comfortable to take naps.

Training employees on the correct techniques to help them reduce their fatigue at work and manage it in situations such as shift work changes or dealing with sleep deprivation, and making the most of their naps

Why is it important to manage fatigue at work?

Focusing on managing workplace fatigue can have a positive impact for all workers by reducing the rate of mistakes being caused, it can also lower the rate of accidents occurring. The rate of productivity can increase among the workers e.g. Workers can feel happier and less exhausted when working or less unmotivated.

Get in touch with RestSpaceLDN if you would like to learn more about the topic on managing workplace fatigue.


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