Every year we conduct a Workforce Management Trend Survey in conjunction with Workforce magazine. And the responses we receive provide a glimpse at the top challenges HR professionals face every day—particularly around time and attendance, scheduling, leave management, and labor compliance. For the fifth straight year, survey respondents indicated that fatigue management is a serious issue. In fact, out of 930 respondents, 75 percent said that fatigue has a major or moderate impact on employee performance at their organization. That’s a 4 percent increase over last year’s trend survey.
And we’re not surprised; employee fatigue has been popping up in the news more regularly, as well. From the widely publicized Tracy Morgan car crash, in which a Walmart truck driver is said to have gone without sleep for more than 24 hours before the accident1, to the recent introduction of new fatigue rules for commercial pilots in Canada2, it’s a hot topic.
But there’s more to employee fatigue than accident avoidance. Fatigue-related absenteeism also impacts bottom-line profits. A 2013 study by Aberdeen Group concluded that unplanned absences cause an average annual loss of productivity of 11 percent and, further, that the average cost to businesses for those absences is the equivalent of 74 percent of replaced worker salary3.
Signs of Fatigue
The data we collected further reinforces a connection between employee fatigue and unplanned absence. When asked what signs of employee fatigue risk their organizations monitor, absence patterns were the most common (70 percent) factor being looked at as an indication that an employee could be fatigued. Managers are then able to use this information to consult with workers and call in extra hands as needed. In addition, this caliber of workforce intelligence can also be leveraged to prevent the kind of unaddressed fatigue that so often contributes to attrition—another indication that employers are increasingly using workforce management data to minimize risk and increase efficiencies.
Here’s something else we discovered: scheduling is often part of the toolset employers draw from to mitigate fatigue. Things like flextime, adjusting scheduling practices, and telecommuting—the top three strategies used by our respondents—can all be factored into a flexible workforce management strategy. For example, let’s say that your company allows employees to work from home 20% of the time. Your workforce management system could be configured with a flextime bank that employees can draw from while still being paid for those hours at their regular rate of pay. And robust self-service options make it easy for employees to swap shifts when necessary, whether due to fatigue or other conflicts.
In fact, this kind of focus on employee-centered policies is another trend we saw in this year’s survey results. Respondents made clear that they’re shaping practices in order to better retain top talent, grow employee morale, and maintain positive brand equity.
1 Karimi, Faith, and Ray Sanchez. “Trucker in Tracy Morgan crash pleads not guilty amid sleep deprivation reports.” CNN, 12 June 2014. Web. 22 Sept. 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/11/showbiz/tracy-morgan-crash/>.
2 Campion-Smith, Bruce. “Sleepy pilots target of new Transport Canada rules.”
The Star, 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 22 Sept. 2014. <http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/09/18/sleepy_pilots_target_of_new_transport_canada_rules.html>.
3 Mollie Lombardi (2013). Total Workforce Management 2013: Absence Management. Aberdeen Group.