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Are your employees suffering from decision fatigue?

No matter the job, no matter the industry, no matter the location, most employers expect to experience some degree of decreased productivity, as well as a greater likelihood of work injuries during the typical workweek. The reason? From the construction worker who spent the week lifting heavy roofing tiles to the corporate accountant who has been staring at spreadsheets all afternoon, all employees are bound to suffer some level of physical or mental fatigue.

While employers can devise ways to prevent this physical and mental fatigue - increased breaks, scheduling of different tasks, etc. - there is actually another type of work-related fatigue that can have an equally dramatic effect on a business.

Researchers have determined that many employees experience so-called "decision fatigue" during the course of the typical workday.

Here, the researchers found that the more decisions an employee makes, the more difficult the next one becomes due to rapidly depleting levels of mental energy. As a result, an employee may unknowingly reach the point where they make poor/reckless decisions or simply decide to make no decisions whatsoever.

(Interestingly, researchers identified one of the primary causes of decision fatigue as low glucose levels in the body.)

It should come as no surprise then that decision fatigue presents the potential for serious and - even fatal - work injuries, as employees make imprudent decisions or no decisions whatsoever.

Fortunately, researchers have devised a few methods designed to help counteract decision fatigue, which typically occurs towards the end of work shifts or in the afternoon.

These steps include:

  • If important and complex/potentially dangerous tasks must be performed, consider scheduling them during the start of the shift or during the morning hours, avoiding the afternoon hours when decision fatigue can set in.
  • Consider having supervisory employees monitor their decisions over a span of time, keeping track in an online log or notebook. According to researchers, self-awareness/mindfulness is often one of the more effective ways to enact change. Here, an employee may later see that they may a questionable decision during a certain time of the day and make the necessary corrections to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Stay tuned for more from our Los Angeles County workers' compensation defense law...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


ISHN, "Five o'clock fatigue" Nov. 1, 2011

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