Asleep at the wheel

Adjust work loads to position employees for success

With the tremendous focus the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has put on fatigue, sleep deprivation, and sleep apnea involving truckers, certain questions arise. Add in the creation of rules and regulations to address these issues and it’s likely that if you weren’t sleep-deprived before, you are now. What about the rest and sleep habits of owners, managers, dispatchers, and the rest of your office staff? Are you addressing what the lack of sleep among these employees might be doing to your productivity and how they manage your truckers? As tempting as it is to think the more hours we work, the greater the results (this has been the thought of many truckers for years; just replace the word ‘hours’ with ‘miles’), study after study finds that quality, restful sleep of seven to nine hours per day for truckers is needed to restore the body to full functioning capacity. But if it’s true for truckers, isn’t it also true for the rest of us?

More and more research is indicating that when people suffer from sleep deprivation, they experience a decrease in productivity, loss of self-control, and begin to feel more hostile. The more tired a person is, the more irritable he/she becomes, which means they are not as productive. Put two sleep-deprived people on a confrontational course—think of a tired dispatcher assigning a sleep-deprived trucker a load he doesn’t really want—and you have a formula for disaster.

There is also a belief that this less-than-positive attitude leads people to engage in more dishonest behavior, such as embezzlement, drug and alcohol use while on the job, and verbal confrontations and arguments with other employees and customers. None of these are conducive to a positive, productive and profitable workplace.

A lack of sleep can also diminish a person’s self-regulation, or how an individual chooses to conduct himself around other people. The greater the lack of sleep, the more pronounced the effects, notes Tony Schwartz, founder of the Energy Project. Schwartz points out that 97.5% of humans require at least seven hours of sleep per rest period. Here are two ideas for reducing poor productivity and office confrontations induced by lack of sleep:

- Redesign and reassign responsibilities so your employees (and you) have the time to get away from work responsibilities and actually garner some uninterrupted personal time. Even with the trucking industry being a 24/7/365 business, you can’t expect your employees to be on call every moment of every day. They need downtime to rest. Employees should be able to turn off their cell phones and ignore text messages and emails during their downtime. - Cease the workplace competition that promotes workaholics. Remember, some of the greatest innovations occur when people are given the time to relax and reflect. This is best accomplished when they are allowed to escape the day-to-day responsibilities that come with their job. Being able to relax has a way of renewing anyone’s energy so when they return to work, productivity and creativity are equally rejuvenated.

Something to think about.

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