U.S. Productivity Gains Come at the Expense of Fatigued Workers

Thanks to the convergence of a recovering economy and a lean
workforce, U.S. productivity gains in the fourth
quarter of 2009 reached 6.9%. For the year, the rate was 3.8% — the
second-highest level in a decade. While that is certainly welcome news,
you have to wonder if employers are wearing their employees out.

In a report published in the January Journal of Occupational and
Environmental Medicine
, 38% of more than 29,000 employees said they
had experienced “low levels of energy, poor sleep, or a feeling of
fatigue” during the past two weeks, a problem that carries billions of
dollars in costs from lost productivity.

The study looked at the effects of fatigue on health-related lost
productive time: not just absenteeism but also “presenteeism,” or days the employee was at
work but performing at less than full capacity because of health
reasons. Nine percent of workers with fatigue reported lost productive
work time. Fatigue reduced work performance mainly by interfering with
concentration and increasing the time needed to accomplish tasks.

The rate of lost productivity for all health-related reasons was also
much higher for workers with fatigue: 66%, compared with 26% for
workers without fatigue. Total lost productive time averaged 5.6 hours
per week for workers with fatigue, compared to 3.3 hours for their
counterparts without fatigue.

For U.S. employers, fatigue carried overall estimated costs of more
than $136 billion per year in health-related lost productivity — $101
billion more than for workers without fatigue. Eighty-four percent of
the costs were related to reduced performance while at work, rather than

With adjustment for other factors, fatigue was more common in women
than men, in workers less than 50 years old, and in white workers
compared with African-Americans. Workers with “high-control” jobs —
relatively well-paid jobs with decision-making responsibility — also
reported higher rates of fatigue.

Source: Workforce Trends, Monday
Mar 15, 2010


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