Employee fatigue costs companies $136 billion each year

You might be familiar with this famous quote from NFL Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi: “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

But were you aware employee fatigue in the workplace is a widely prevalent health problem that could be taking a big chunk out of your profits?

A Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine study found nearly 40% of U.S. workers experience fatigue, which costs their employers more than $136 billion per year in health-related lost productivity. About 84% of the costs were related to reduced work performance, rather than absences.

Yet, for many business executives, sleep deprivation is seen as a badge of honor. Just like those obsessed football coaches who spend every waking hour breaking down game films, executives who regularly pull all-nighters are celebrated as consummate team players. After all, didn’t Lombardi also say, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”?

But whether in sports or business, you need a sharp mind to win. According to researchers at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, missing just one night’s sleep has a noticeable impact on the brain’s ability to function.

Sleep deprivation starves the brain of glucose – its sole fuel. So when people stay awake for long periods of time, they progressively lose their ability to think. Don’t expect sleep-deprived employees to make good decisions or solve hard problems, because the energy (glucose) their brains need is instead being diverted to the challenge of staying awake.

Fatigue also can weaken immune systems and lead to health problems. According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who routinely get fewer than seven hours of shut-eye a night triple their risk of developing a cold compared with those who doze for eight or more hours.

Sleep deprivation is one problem that literally can be fixed overnight. To get a good night’s sleep, exercise regularly, go to bed early and keep your bedroom completely dark. We’ll write more about developing healthy sleep habits in future posts.

And if you’re an employer, be aware of employees who show signs of complete exhaustion. You might want to send them home before they do anything that could hurt your business.

About Ken Dallafior

Ken Dallafior is Senior Vice President, Group Business and Corporate Marketing at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM). Dallafior leads BCBSM's group sales force, oversees corporate marketing and product development, and develops and implements key corporate strategies. He also provides leadership to critical sales operations such as agent relations and commissions, sales incentives and complex issue resolution for group customers and sales agents. In addition to working in the insurance industry for nearly two decades, Dallafior played professional football from 1982 to 1992. He is founder and board member of the Detroit Lions Courage House.
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