Employee Fatigue During High Intensity Periods on Projects

A workplace hazard, you can define fatigue as ‘the inability or decrease in ability to respond to a situation, due to previous over-activity, mental, emotional or physical’.

It is frequently cited as the single most important cause of dwindling employee productivity and efficiency.  It can, and often does, result in reduced vigilance during work, poor judgment and decision-making ability, along with loss of awareness and distraction during critical and complex tasks.

Fatigue can be due to over-stimulation, in cases of high intensity periods of project work, where employees may be frazzled, stressed, jittery, overloaded and experiencing possible burnout. The question is, how do you overcome this fatigue and still guarantee optimal performance from employees while safeguarding their health? Here are a few tips:

  1. Anticipate. A project manager should always anticipate that, however talented and brilliant his team might be, midway through a project, interests tend to wane and fatigue sets in. Long and endless work hours, lingering business questions, and hindrances with constant deadline pestering from the client, are bound to take their toll. A smart move would be to anticipate this and create a response before the situation begins to adversely affect the project team as a whole.
  2. Evaluate. Take into consideration and assess employee performance to identify and pinpoint problems. Attendance, punctuality, attitude, work input and output, engagements and deadlines, all should be reflected on to gauge efficiency and efficacy of the project team. An honest, transparent and understanding relationship with the employees will go a long way in benefiting the entire project where the employees are comfortable in approaching and asking you for assistance well before they reach their limit.
  3. Accept. Acknowledge the point where fatigue becomes evident in employee performance. A demand-heavy, high intensity work period’s importance and impact should not be dismissed and diminished. Accept the employees complaints and give due recognition for the extra efforts put in followed by appropriate rewards.
  4. Tackle. Anticipating, evaluating and acknowledging a potential problem are all critical aspects to begin with. These should be followed by implementation of practices that combat the fatigue before it causes any lasting harm.
  • Always maintain a positive outlook, and evaluate and include the employee’s health and emotional and physical wellbeing into regular reports of project status.
  • Adopt and maintain a scale of workload that meets the requirements of the project yet does not go overboard.
  • Incorporate positive reinforcement, express gratitude and appreciation to your employees that helps uplift their morale.
  • Don’t dismiss rewards and time to rejuvenate. Communicate them clearly to the team and then follow through.
  • Encourage sharing roles and responsibilities within the work force to build team harmony, adjust work timelines and allow appropriate times off when need be.
  • Allow recreational activities to break stress, sustain and uphold an aura of lightheartedness, while still ensuring optimal employee performance. Even a weekly lunch in a good restaurant can go a long way in gaining back the team’s motivation and fight some of the fatigue.

Work stress and eventual setting in of fatigue is inevitable in demanding jobs, but by investing time and effort in properly planning an effective combat approach, one can not only preserve coherence and harmony in the work environment but will also garner benefits for you and your team both.

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