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More than one-quarter of Canadians go to work feeling tired


More than one-quarter (27 per cent) of Canadian workers report being fatigued most days or every day during a typical work week, which has consequences for safety, performance and productivity, according to a survey by the Conference Board of Canada.

“The harmful effects of fatigue are numerous, and in some cases, comparable to the effects of alcohol,” said Mary-Lou MacDonald, director, workplace health, wellness and safety research at the Conference Board of Canada in Ottawa. “Employers that proactively address their employees' fatigue will have a more productive workforce and a safer working environment.”

Based on findings from a national survey of 739 full-time or part-time employed Canadians, the report, Running on Empty: Understanding Fatigue in the Workplace, documents the prevalence of fatigue in the Canadian workforce. It shows that fatigue has consequences for the way employees think, react and display emotions at work.

Employees surveyed recognized that being fatigued affects their performance and productivity. More than 40 per cent of those surveyed reported that their productivity and performance were somewhat or significantly worse when they did not get enough rest.

Previous research has suggested that tired employees also have an impact on interpersonal interactions at work, as lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep affects the body’s ability to recharge and the ability to self-control. Without proper sleep, supervisors may be less respectful or civil to their staff and people working in customer service may find it harder to deal with difficult customers.

Work stress and job demands topped the list as the main cause of fatigue. Of the employees surveyed, 28 per cent identified it as one of the biggest factors contributing to their lack of sleep. Other leading factors included stress from home demands (26 per cent), physical health problems (nine per cent). Poor sleeping habits, such as caffeine before bed or too much screen time, also contributed to lack of sleep.

Employees with children under the age of 18 were more likely to cite being tired or not having enough rest, compared with their counterparts who did not have children living at home. Almost one-quarter (22 per cent) of those with children indicated that they were tired every day, compared with only 12 per cent of those without children. Women also reported being more tired at work than men. Compared with 29 per cent of men, only 15 per cent of women indicated that they never went to work feeling tired.

Many work and non-work factors can influence a lack of sleep. Employers need to look beyond the direct work environment to understand the contributing factors and, therefore, determine the best ways to manage fatigue for their operations and employees.

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