Fatigue

One of my favourite sayings is that engineers are like diamonds, formed under pressure and worth a lot. Unfortunately, lately we now seem to be worth a little less money than we are perhaps used to. None the less, the pressure and workload in mining stands above many other industries.

On site staff typically work 10 to 12 hour days, meaning that 50-60 hours weeks are fairly standard. While we often wear our unwavering work ethic as a badge of honour, the fatigue placed on our bodies and minds does have a real impact on our effectiveness at work and often our health as well. Because we work in high pressure situations, the stress evokes an adrenaline response which makes us feel alert and along with caffeine, gets us through the days. While we feel alert, caffeine and adrenaline are not as effective as sleep for enabling the full cognitive capability of the brain. I recall many Saturdays spent in a zombie like state recovering from a 60 hour week.

While we are at work, our response to the challenges presented to us is telling our functional state. When we are fresh, an urgent problem is tackled with enthusiasm where the search for a solution involves an element of the thrill of the chase. We might get a little buzz out of quickly solving the problem. We feel in control and seem to have enough time and perspective to not get overwhelmed. In a fatigued state, the natural response to a challenge is irritation, we might spend time laying blame rather than solving the problem. We tend to miss key parts of the equation and prefer to defer any work until we have a little less on our plates. In a fatigued state, problems tend to hang around longer than they should, which sometimes causes further problems and more fatigue.

If you are working big days, a useful experiment would be to turn up a hour later to work each day for a couple of weeks and then see how much work you get done. Reflect on whether you more or less in control of your responsibilities. Perhaps tell the boss about your plans first.

*Image courtesy of www.amsj.com.au