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MANAGING THE OFFICE

How to maintain a well-rested staff and reduce the risk of costly mistakes

It’s time for a wake-up call: Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of U.S. employees say they work while tired, with nearly one-third (31 percent) saying they do so very often, according to a survey by staffing firm Accountemps.

The costs of working tired—both for professionals and the businesses they work for—are high: Respondents cite lack of focus or being easily distracted (52 percent), procrastinating more (47 percent), being grumpy (38 percent) and making more mistakes (29 percent) among the consequences.

Additional points from the Accountemps survey:

  • Younger workers might be burning the midnight oil. Eighty-six percent of professionals between the ages of 18 and 34 admitted to being sleepy at work often, compared to 71 percent of workers ages 35 to 54 and only 50 percent of respondents ages 55 and older. Slightly more men (77 percent) than women (71 percent) said they often work while tired.
  • Fifty-five percent of workers said they would use a nap room if their employer offered one. Two percent said their employer already provides a nap room and they take advantage of it.
  • Thirty-three percent of workers who said they would not take advantage of a nap room cited the following reasons: It might make them sleepier (46 percent), they don’t want to be perceived as a slacker (35 percent), and they worry about not getting their work done (34 percent).

The mistakes are nothing to yawn about

Work may not be the only issue keeping people up at night, but it’s critical for managers to take action. “There is no upside to having an exhausted team at work,” says Bill Driscoll, a district president for Accountemps.

Professionals admitted to—or heard of others—making the following mistakes due to being tired on the job:

  • Made a $20,000 mistake on a purchase order
  • Deleted a project that took 1,000 hours to put together
  • Accidentally reformatted a server
  • Fell asleep in front of the boss during a presentation
  • Missed a decimal point on an estimated payment and the client overpaid by $1 million
  • Accidentally paid everyone twice
  • Talked about a client thinking the phone was on mute; it wasn’t
  • Ordered 500 more computers than were needed

What managers can do to help

“Talk to your employees individually to come up with solutions,” Driscoll says. “These discussions can yield a number of ideas to help remedy the situation. Offering a more flexible schedule may alleviate long and costly commutes. Bringing temporary staff on board may cut down on working after-hours. Reorganizing current priorities may lead to more manageable workloads.”

Accountemps offers managers the following 4 tips for maintaining a well-rested staff:

  1. Manage workloads. Meet with employees regularly to evaluate what’s on their plates and set priorities and realistic expectations based on business needs. If there’s too much work to go around, consider bringing in temporary help to keep projects moving forward while relieving the burden on full-time staff.
  1. Encourage employees to take breaks. Some professionals might choose to forgo breaks to get their work done. But remind staff that a tired employee isn’t an effective or productive one—they need an occasional time-out to recharge.
  1. Consider making meaningful changes. Implementing flexible schedules and telecommuting options or providing rest areas in the building can make a big difference for staff.
  1. Lead by example. As a manager, employees take their cues from you, so set a good example. Take sporadic breaks, get away from your desk and work normal business hours. Your staff will likely follow suit.

Conclusion

Don’t underestimate the effect an exhausted employee can have on your firm. Says Driscoll, “Failing to take action can lead to big problems such as burnout, turnover, and a negative corporate culture, along with lost sales and productivity.”


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