Today we look at the issues around fatigue, and burn-out, and what we can do to try and prevent them building up.
Fatigue is a growing concern in industries such as health care and rail. The main issues with fatigue are that it can be difficult to recognise, and hard to diagnose. Also, people can feel fine one moment, and fatigued the next. So, asking someone to assess their own level of fatigue at any given time, especially as the response is highly subjective, is not a reliable method.
There are some tools that try to measure fatigue levels, however these are generally misunderstood as tools that “manage fatigue” rather than being a form of guidance. Fatigue isn’t just “I do/don’t feel tired”. We can all feel tired! Fatigue is a cumulative issue, that builds up – especially if you do long hours at work, or switch from days to nights on a shift. You can then have fatigue compounded with life situations such as stress, mental ill health, lack of sleep, or having a new baby!
So, how do you manage fatigue? The first step is to realise that you are the manager of your own fatigue. You can be truthful to yourself, even if not with others, about how you feel in terms of your mental and physical health. Being honest with yourself allows you to react positively when you are fatigued.
In a workplace, you need to have a good understanding of what support is available from your HR or Occupational Health teams – and push for more support if you don’t feel any is available. You need to be honest about your situation and seek help and support. including from Mental Health First Aiders, if your organisation has them.
Fatigue can go down and be less of a problem. But it can also affect your mental and physical health in serious ways if left unchecked. Please be honest with yourself, your friends and family, and your workplace – so that you can get support if you need it.
Burn-out is an extreme condition, whereby extreme stress and fatigue can cause a person to face a severe health crisis, affecting their mental and physical health.
The main problem with burn-out at senior levels of management in an organisation, is that it can be seen as something to boast about. “I went off for 6 months after working myself into the ground to secure that customer!” – that sounds awful to an outsider, but for some it’s seen as a badge of honour.
Very much like fatigue, early warning checks and prevention measures need to be in place, via HR/Occupational Health to spot signs and symptoms in people who may be heading towards burn-out.
You may think you have burned-out for a good reason – to keep a customer, secure a new contract, or get that promotion you have always wanted – but if you are then off work, with little or no pay, and mental health difficulties, you aren’t going anywhere fast.
If you think you are under too much pressure – seek help and support, and don’t allow yourself to be “ground into the ground” – it will damage you most of all.