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A practical guide to preventing workplace fatigue through better rotas

Workplace fatigue has been proven to have devastating effects. One only has to watch the Chernobyl television series to witness how error-inducing exhaustion can cause a nuclear explosion. As the modern world continues to work harder, longer and at a faster pace, fatigue in the workplace is quickly becoming a top concern.This is a particular worry for our NHS workers who continue to be under immense pressure since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. Whilst the healthcare industry is renowned for its demanding work culture, never before have our doctors experienced such a high level of stress. This can have a detrimental effect on patient quality of care and in some cases, result in a 63% chance of making major medical errors.

But it’s not just our health workers who are struggling.

Whilst fatigue in the workplace can affect all of us, the risk has traditionally increased for shift workers, night staff and those on call. But since the pandemic, more and more employees are reporting signs of workplace fatigue. In July 2020, 69% of remote workers reported feeling burnout, according to global employment platform, Monster. This is up 20% from a survey just two months prior.

The effects of fatigue in the workplace can be witnessed across a range of industries from events to construction - and with increased strain to survive a worldwide pandemic, most businesses have been guilty of piling on the pressure.

We are, however, also seeing a growing focus on flexibility and health in the workplace, much of which has escalated since the outbreak. Many businesses have come to realise the correlation between employee happiness, productivity and overall performance.

So how, in a world that is balancing increased workloads with flexibility, can we successfully manage fatigue in the workplace?

Prevent workplace fatigue with better scheduling

The most common contributor for increased fatigue is poor shift-based scheduling. Long hours, consecutive night shifts, fixed patterns, inflexible managers and a lack of rest are frequently seen in rotas that cause employee burnout.

For a fatigue management plan to be effective, there must be a balance for flexible working and employee’s safety in regards to their schedules. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the creation of a successful rota. Every organisation must consider their individual business’ size and conditions, as well as their employees’ needs.

With that said, there are a number of common elements found within optimised scheduling that can help your business to avoid employee burnout.

Realistic forecasting for better labour demand

A common obstacle in accurate rostering lies in overcoming varying labour demand. The ability to predict how many employees and with what skills are required in which location at any given time is a complicated equation that requires advanced data forecasting. Many scheduling processes, if not done manually, are unable to realistically forecast demand, resulting in unfair scheduling,unnecessary fatigue and wasted resources.

Workforce management systems are therefore vital to reversing employee burnout. Complex AI-driven technology combines historical data, fatigue risk and events such as footfall or patient check-ins to accurately produce labour demand that is the basis for good rotas.

This approach is invaluable for reducing the volume of overworked employees, allowing for varied shift patterns alongside a changing work environment.

Reducing high-risk fatigue for workers

Automated scheduling has multiple benefits. But the biggest reassurance for employers is the preprogrammed prevention of fatigue risk. Here at Rotageek, we implement the AMA risk score into our schedule analysis tools to help teams plan better schedules. This warns when a particular employee is above a threshold risk score to proactively prevent shift-based fatigue and identify ongoing problem spots.

With auto scheduling, rotas will always be planned with fatigue reducing rules in mind, for example, maximum consecutive working days, adequate rest time and the switch between day to night shifts. Even manual edits will cause real-time alerts on the roster - we know it is far too easy for a well-meaning manager to accidentally break a rule and create a tough rota for a team member. The technology has been used across the NHS and other healthcare practices to improve guidance for schedule-makers, reduce doctor burnout and increase patient safety.

A collaborative approach for better flexibility

Nurturing an adequate work/life balance for shift-based staff is no easy feat. Yet more has to be done to cater for flexible working practices. Standards need to be met that enable employees to take more control over their scheduling.

Fair rotas which are built with workers’ needs in mind are therefore required. Automated rostering systems like Rotageek, optimise the staff rota to ensure a fair distribution of typically unpopular shifts, evenings, lates or weekends while staying compliant to rules. This must also include the ability to swap and pick up shifts (whilst monitoring and recording hours worked) as people’s lives inevitably change. Rotas made four weeks or more in advance will need changes making, swaps agreeing and extra shifts adding. By using a system to do this, you can enable employees to not only solve their own problems as they arise without bothering managers, but also unlock hidden flexibility by pushing extra shifts to team members who perhaps you didn’t realise wanted extra hours.

The ability to input individual preferences and submit unavailability requests is also vital to making rostering collaborative. Allowing employees to have input over their shifts allows them to self-manage their stress and fatigue, increasing overall happiness.

Such scheduling must also cater for entitled breaks as per the law. When considering industries where rest periods can not only affect job ability but most importantly the safety of individuals, such as construction and healthcare, this is a crucial element of successful rostering. Workforce management systems can therefore incur a financial penalty for the individual or employer if breaks are missed.

Manage your workplace fatigue with Rotageek

The inclusion of optimised scheduling within a fatigue management plan offers clear benefits and measurable return on investment:

  • Increased productivity
  • Saving on labour spend
  • Improvement in shift fairness and accuracy
  • Better employee happiness and health
  • Reduced employee turnover and sickness
  • Reduced risk of error or safety hazards

    Whether for our healthcare workers or shopfront staff, automatic rostering is proven to reduce workplace fatigue.

    Find out more about how Rotageek’s scheduling solutions can benefit your workforce and get in touch today.

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