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Fatigue In The Workplace: A Costly Condition

Workplace FatigueFour out of ten American workers suffer from fatigue, a problem contributing to reduced health and emotional well-being, as well as costing billions of dollars to businesses from lost productivity.

The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, (published by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine) has released finding from a new nationwide study on the relationship between health and workplace productivity. Dr. Judith Ricci analyzed data on nearly 29,000 American workers, finding that 38% experienced “low levels of energy, poor sleep, or a feeling of fatigue” during the past two weeks. With adjustments for other factors, fatigue was more common in women than men; more common in workers under than 50 years old; and more common among white workers compared with African Americans. Workers with relatively well-paid jobs involving decision-making responsibilities also reported higher rates of fatigue.

The study looked at the effects of fatigue on health-related lost productive time. This included not only absenteeism but also “presenteeism”: days when an employee came to work but performed at lower capacity due to fatigue. Fatigue impacted work performance primarily by interfering with concentration and increasing the time for accomplishing tasks.

The rate of lost productivity for all health-related reasons was also much higher for workers with fatigue (66%) as opposed to for workers without fatigue (26%). Loss in productive time averaged 5.6 hours per week for workers suffering from fatigue, compared to 3.3 hours for more rested counterparts. Among U.S. employers, fatigue was responsible for estimated costs of more than $136 billion per year in health-related lost productivity – almost twice the figure over that of workers without fatigue. Eighty-four percent of those costs came from lower performance at work rather than days missed.

Fatigue can be a health symptom of broader conditions like depression or anxiety. A large part of costs to employers are related to a wide range of other physical and mental health problems that may occur when fatigue is also present.

Up until now, most studies have linked fatigue to absences from work. This most recent study is the first to focus specifically on rates of fatigue among U.S. workers, and how they correspond to worker productivity.


In some cases, fatigue is actually a symptom of a work injury or illness. If you believe this could be the case, and need professional help collecting workers compensation benefits from the Department of Labor and Industries, contact an Emery Reddy attorney to represent your claim. Our team of L&I Lawyers and Seattle Workers Compensation Attorneys also help workers appeal denied L&I claim, provide consultation to those who’ve been required to undergo an independent medical examination, and those experiencing any trouble with their L&I claim. Contact an experienced employment attorney today for help with your workplace legal issues.

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