Families play a huge role in fatigue management

Babies are fatigue magnets. Engaging the family is a proactive, cost effective and an important fatigue management strategy for your organisation. It also is an opportunity for your company to be seen doing pro-active work in the community.

We’ve all seen the pictures – smiling faces, proud parents holding bubs with the siblings cooing. That’s the way it should be – but there is another side to the joy of a new arrival on the planet and that is the fatigue they bring with them.

Babies and fatigue

We all know this instinctively, but having a newborn at home brings a lot of fatigue into the household as well as joy. Mum is going to have broken sleep for the next few months and in some cases years. As she rises in the middle of the night to settle and feed the newborn, her broken sleep will increase her fatigue levels. Working fathers will often experience sleep disturbance and they may also be actively involved in feeding or caring for bubs and so their fatigue levels increase. If they are already doing shift work, the increase in their fatigue can be severe.

Toddlers and fatigue

As bubs grows into a toddler, the nightly waking decreases but it is still common for 2-3 year olds to be causing significant disturbance of their parent’s sleep. In some cases, this is because the child has developed some unhelpful habits around sleep. They may feel scared if they awake in the middle of the night and seek the security of the parents bed. They may not have an adequate wind-down ritual before bedtime or they may simple just want to stay awake as long as they can and consistently throw a tantrum or refuse to settle!  Throw in a baby on top of this deal and you have two very fatigued parents.

Shift Work, Babies and Toddlers all at once

Definitely not a great mix. Dad has to sleep during the day. Mum is totally exhausted from hardly sleeping at all last night so dad steps in to share some of the load. Or maybe dad does not step in but the unavoidable noise in the house is enough to keep him awake when it is critical he gets sleep for the shift tonight. So with little sleep dad drags himself to the car and hits the road.

Shift Work, Babies, Toddlers and a relationship under pressure

This is even worse. Young families place pressure on parents sleep time. Shift Work places pressure on sleep. All too often cracks can start to appear in the relationship with slammed doors, screaming kids and screeching tyres as dad heads to the pub and mum is in tears trying to work out where it all started going wrong.

You can do something about this and it can have surprisingly positive effects

Every organization has an opportunity to provide support to employees who have new or young families at home. This can take many different forms – from simple training sessions for employees, or providing booklets on managing fatigue with young families. If you want to go further you can involve the participation of the partner or spouse. This can be though providing an information pack to the family by mail. A well-produced, branded booklet or book on improving sleep for babies and toddlers together with a well written introductory letter is a very simple and cost-effective way to make a big impact. If you want to go further you can host information sessions for spouses and partners at work or in a community hall.

Why this works so well

There are several reasons why engaging and involving the spouse or partner works so well. Firstly, this meets a very real need for your employees – babies are fatigue magnets and to be seen doing something proactively in this area creates a good vibe in the organization. Secondly, the parent at home receives practical tips for managing fatigue with young ones. This is often welcomed as very helpful support from the employer. Thirdly, the wife or partner may not have a full awareness of the risks of fatigue and on receiving the information (or training) they often make big changes at home that supports good fatigue management practices. A partner/wife keeping an employee accountable for fatigue management is an opportunity not to be missed. Lastly, when done wisely using well written booklets, with practical tips and good cover letters, the brand of the employer is enhanced at home and also in the community.

For the free strategy sheet on engaging shift workers families in fatigue management, email michael@fatiguesafety.com.au

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