Five warning signs of employee fatigue

Fatigued employees are a risk in the workplace. They can be underproductive and even dangerous in critical situations. Reduced alertness due to fatigue results in nearly 10,000 serious workplace injuries in Australia each year. (1) Businesses must be able to recognise the signs of fatigued employees and how to correct their workload to provide them with greater balance.

Leslie Tarnacki, vice president and general manager of Human Resources, WorkForce Software (WFS Australia), said, “Many employees keep quiet about feeling overworked and overwhelmed. Leaders that can spot those fatigued workers can address the issue before it gets out of hand.”

WFS Australia urges business leaders to be vigilant for five key warning signs of employee fatigue:

1. Unusual emotion: Be aware of employees acting out of character, such as showing emotional distress, moodiness, or having a bad attitude in the workplace.

2. Consistent lateness: Some employees will run late in every aspect of their lives out of bad habit. However if a normally-punctual employee arrives late to work every morning, it can indicate poor work-life balance.

3. A cluttered workspace: Pay attention to employees’ desk and work stations. While some people prefer a more chaotic environment, a messy workspace can be a symptom of overwork.

4. Forgetfulness and disregard for the team at large: Ongoing forgetfulness can affects an entire team. It can waste other employees’ time and hinder their performance. It can also be a sign that the employee in question has too many things to think about and isn’t on top of their workload.

5. Productivity dips despite longer hours: The more hours you work, the less you get done. Productivity often decreases the longer employees spend at work.

One third of Australians do not take their allocated annual leave. (2) It is important that businesses keep track of employees’ time-off entitlements and ensure they take adequate leave. This can help boost business productivity and staff morale.

Leslie Tarnacki said, “Business leaders should ask potentially fatigued employees explicit questions, such as ‘Do you have too much on your plate?’ From here they can review their workloads and make necessary adjustments.

“Investing in workforce management software can eliminate overscheduling employees to prevent workplace fatigue, and protect both employees and the business’s bottom line by notifying managers when employees have worked too many hours or not had a long enough break between shifts.”


(1) Monash University  Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity, 2014

(2) The Australian Institute, 2012