Work-Life Balance

Did You Know?
Work-life balance has a direct effect on our physical wellness which can also impact our driving behaviors.

Work-Life balance has a direct effect on our physical wellness, which can also impact our driving behaviors. According to a study conducted by the RAND Corporation in 2017, most American workers reported having to work at high speeds under tight deadlines or having too little time to do their job. Elements of Work-Life balance, such as getting enough sleep, eating healthy and adequately managing stress can influence our cognitive functions including concentration, hand-eye coordination, decision making processes, and other physical reactions to roadway stimuli when driving.

The following section contains information regarding each of these elements, workplace materials for employers to educate employees, and suggested actions employers can take to help their employees to achieve a higher level of Work-Life balance.

Fatigue

Man yawning behind wheel of car

Fatigue is a significant traffic safety concern since it is a known contributor to roadway crashes. The terms “drowsy driving” and “fatigue” are often interchanged when used in this regard. However drowsiness is referred to with use of medications or as a result of sleep restriction, disturbed sleep or poor sleep quality. Fatigue has been identified as having a broader scope. Drowsiness can be a component of fatigue; however, fatigue can be manifested as a result of excessive physical demands, certain health conditions, and stress. Drowsy driving is the dangerous combination of driving and sleepiness or fatigue.

Yawning driver behind wheel

Fatigue can be considered as lack of mental and physical energy and motivation. Symptoms of fatigue can include and “feeling tired” or the need to sleep, but often other symptoms are mistaken as fatigue including shortness of breath, muscle weakness, and depression.

Identifying fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome should be left to a medical professional. However, implementing one-on-one sessions and providing screenings in the workplace would identify those employees at risk. to identify employees with potential symptoms of fatigue as well as company standards to avoid fatigued driving would be helpful in reducing fatigued driving crashes.

A recent study conducted on the sleeping and driving habits of Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) drivers concluded that an unhealthy lifestyle, long working hours, and sleeping problems were the main causes of drivers falling asleep while driving. Research has found that work factors associated with poor sleep quality and duration include shift work, long work hours, and job stress. Shift work and long work hours negatively affect personal relationships and responsibilities. These aspects are also associated with a broad range of health risks including premature death, obesity, adverse reproductive outcomes, infections, and a wide range of chronic illnesses including cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and musculoskeletal disorders, diabetes mellitus, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and disturbances to mood and cognition.

Driving at night can have unique challenges. Depth perception, color recognition and peripheral vision can be compromised in the dark. In addition, the glare from oncoming headlights can temporarily blind a driver. According to the National Safety Council, fatal crashes peak on Saturday nights.

Implementing fatigue management in the workplace can be helpful to reducing the incidence of driving under these conditions. Establishing guidelines and criteria for a Fatigue Management Plan that best suits the needs of the organization are critical to effectively managing this risky driving behavior. See: sample Fatigue Management Plan from Freeport-MoRan.

Fatigued driver behind wheel

Get the Facts!

Fatigue Materials for the Workplace

Click on the following to download Fatigue educational materials:

Fact Sheet

Video

Resources

NHTSA Tips to Drive Alert:

  • Getting adequate sleep on a daily basis is the only true way to protect yourself against the risks of driving when you’re drowsy. Experts urge consumers to make it a priority to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. For more information on healthy sleep, see Healthy Sleep At A Glance(PDF, 1.81 MB) at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute .
  • Before the start of a long family car trip, get a good night’s sleep, or you could put your entire family and others at risk.
  • Many teens do not get enough sleep at a stage in life when their biological need for sleep increases, which makes them vulnerable to the risk of drowsy-driving crashes, especially on longer trips. Advise your teens to delay driving until they’re well-rested.
  • Avoid drinking any alcohol before driving. Consumption of alcohol interacts with sleepiness to increase drowsiness and impairment.
  • Always check your prescription and over-the-counter medication labels to see if drowsiness could result from their use.
  • If you take medications that could cause drowsiness as a side effect, use public transportation when possible.
  • If you drive, avoid driving during the peak sleepiness periods (midnight – 6 a.m. and late afternoon). If you must drive during the peak sleepiness periods, stay vigilant for signs of drowsiness, such as crossing over roadway lines or hitting a rumble strip, especially if you’re driving alone.

Short-Term Interventions

Infographics

Nutrition

healthy heart-shaped bowl of fruits and vegetables

Food acts as fuel for our bodies. The type of food we eat affects how well our body can perform everyday activities. The American Heart Association released a 2018 update that reported a recent study using a comparative risk assessment model estimated that 45.4 percent of US deaths caused by heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) (cardiometabolic mortality) in 2012 were attributable to poor dietary habits.

Food may be available through many channels at the workplace including cafeterias, snack bars, vending machines, onsite or nearby farmers markets, food served at company meetings and events, coworkers bringing food to share, and employees bringing in their own food. Employees often turn to vending machines due to convenience. Even employees who are health-conscious often forget to bring healthy snacks to work, leaving the vending machine as the only option.

A recent study highlighted at Nutrition 2018 in Boston MA found that 22 percent of U.S. employees obtained food from the workplace during the week. This study also found that employees more often opted for free food rather than purchase food and the food people obtained at work was generally high in empty calories and low in whole grains and fruit. Snacks offered in vending machines are generally unhealthy but often the only food available. Snacking on typical vending machine items-soft drinks, candy bars and chips several times a week can detract from an overall healthy diet and lead to weight gain.

Family encouraging healthy eating habits
Healthy heart carved in apple

According to nutrition expert Sergio Rojas, false marketing, diet fads, and contradicting information regarding nutrition is a significant concern when identifying “healthy foods”. Many “low-fat” and “low-sugar” foods are often unhealthy and cause insulin spikes based on flour and artificial ingredients. Items such as fruit leathers, canned fruit, low-fat crackers and granola/fruit bars are often high in sugars/carbs, as well as low in fiber and protein, which creates an insulin spike and leads to obesity and heart disease.

Healthy fruits and vegetables served by healthcare professional

Get the Facts!

  • According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, Americans eat out frequently and spent more money on food away from home than they spent on food at home for the first time in 2014.
  • A study in Tempe, Arizona found that the availability of fast food along workers’ route to work linked to extra pounds. Commuters who passed a greater number of fast-food restaurants were found to have higher BMIs. The same result was found among participants who had more supermarkets, grocery stores and fast-food restaurants located near their homes. Workers who lived near more full service restaurants, meanwhile, had lower BMIs.
  • According to the National Institutes of Health National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, obese individuals are at increased risk for chronic diseases and health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, and sleep apnea.
  • Obesity is associated with lower productivity at work, more sick days, and higher health care costs.
  • The 2016 National Health Interview Survey estimated that 37.1 percent of employed adults were classified as overweight based on their body mass index, and another 28.5 percent were classified as obese.
  • A large concern with designation of ‘healthy foods’ is false marketing and a flawed approach. Many “low-fat” and “low-sugar” foods are often unhealthy and cause insulin spikes, based on flour and artificial ingredients. Items such as fruit leathers, canned fruit, low-fat crackers and granola/fruit bars are often high in sugars/carbs, as well as low in fiber and protein, which creates an insulin spike and leads to obesity and heart disease. For example:
    • Root vegetable / Sweet potato chips
    • High fiber / high protein snack bars
    • Low sugar Trail Mix
    • Rice or Nut crackers
    • Turkey Jerky
  • Healthier food options are often viewed as being more expensive. This is not always true. For example, if eating fruits and veggies in season, as well as foods like rice and beans, meals can cost less than many fast food or meat/dairy options. Meat and dairy are actually higher in cost than many healthier foods. Research shows it is only $1.50 more per day to eat healthy. This is relatively insignificant, especially when considering the medical costs, loss of productivity and accident risk of those employees who pose heath risk condition.

Stress

Pulling their hair out due to stress

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) define job stress as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), job stress can lead to poor health and even injury. Workers who experience Work-Life conflict also report low career, job, family, and life satisfaction, poor sleep quality, poor health behaviors, and physical and mental health problems. This conflict affects can affect work performance including an increase in employee absenteeism, burnout, and turnover, as well as poor job performance, low commitment, and poor organizational citizenship behaviors. 

Hand squeezing stress ball

Burnout has been defined recently by medical professionals as a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Burnout can also cause long-term changes to the body that can negatively affect physical wellness including increased vulnerability to illnesses like colds and flu.

Angry man driving with road rage

Aggressive driving occasionally escalates to “road rage” or angry and violent behaviors or extreme aggressive driving that includes gesturing in anger or yelling at another motorist, confrontation, physical assault, and even murder. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines road rage as when a driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle”.

angry aggressive young woman driving car in heavy traffic

Get the Facts!

  • About one-third of workers report high levels of stress.
  • According to Northwestern National Life, one-fourth of employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives.
  • Work-related stress is often associated with absenteeism and lower productivity.
  • According to a study conducted by the RAND Corporation, in 2017 most American workers reported having to work at high speeds or under tight deadlines, or having too little time to do their job, and almost one in five American workers reported experiencing a hostile or threatening work environment.
  • Research has demonstrated that conflicting demands of work and non-work responsibilities are associated with adverse outcomes for workers, their families, and their employers.
  • A study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found more than 10,000 reported cases of road rage and found a 51 percent increase in serious incidents between 1990 and 1996.
  • According to NHTSA, aggressive driving behavior was a critical reason for 1.5 percent of crashes in this study, an estimated 31,026 involved aggressive driving behavior.
  • According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (FTS), 80 percent of drivers have exhibited aggression, significant anger or “road rage”, when driving at least once during the span of a year.
  • AAA FTS also found that from 2003 to 2007, more than 50 percent of fatal crashes involved a driver who performed a potentially aggressive action.

Stress in the Workplace Materials

Click on the following to download Stress in the Workplace educational materials:

Fact Sheet

Video

Resources

Infographics

What Employers Can Do

Collecton of diverse individuals

Employers can utilize the materials provided above to promote a healthy Work-Life balance in the workplace.

Fatigue

  • Provide fatigue awareness training for new drivers.
  • Provide refresher training for fatigue.
  • Provide medical screenings for fatigue.
  • Restrict night driving.
  • Implement company standards for driving and rest hours.
  • Conduct one-on-one sessions to manage fatigue.
  • Recommend workers get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
  • Ensure workers have enough time off work to commute, take care of basic needs, and get the required amount of sleep.
  • Encourage employees to take regular breaks and ensure there are reasonable work schedules in place.
  • Provide education on the health benefits of napping, which include heart health, brain health and cognitive function among other benefits.
  • Consider designated nap rooms/areas.
  • Promote or provide tips for good sleep at home such as limiting screen time and avoiding stimulants like caffeine too close to bedtime.
  • Provide access to a self-administering sleep screening tool that provides a feedback report with recommendations for clinical action as needed.
  • Provide educational materials that address sleep habits and treatment of common sleep disorders.
  • Provide and promote interactive educational programming that addresses sleep habits and treatment of common sleep disorders.
  • Provide training for managers to improve their understanding of the safety and health risks associated with poor sleep and their skills for organizing work to reduce the risk of employee fatigue.

Nutrition

  • Provide lifestyle self-management programs for employees with informational and skill building tools including advice on nutrition.
  • Implement a written policy making healthier food/beverages available at meetings.
  • Offer/promote onsite or access to nearby farmers market for employees.
  • Stock the office kitchen or lunchroom with nutritious snacks such as nuts, dried fruits, string cheese, and fresh fruit.
  • Consider nutrition when choosing meals for company functions. For example, opt for salads, sandwiches, healthy soups, and fruits over pizza lunches.
  • Provide adequate facilities for employees to store and prepare food. What if you have an employee who wants to eat a salad for lunch but has no place to keep it refrigerated? They could fall back on less healthy lunch options due to convenience. Make sure employees have the means to keep their lunches and snacks refrigerated and to safely reheat or cook food.
  • Control what is offered in the vending machine. Request that the vending machine company stock machines with healthier alternatives. If the vending machine will still include unhealthier snacks, help employees identify which items are good for them by marking them with colored stickers or asking the vending machine company to place them on the same shelves.

Stress

  • A combination of organizational change and stress management is often the most useful approach for preventing stress at work.
  • Implement Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): workplace programs designed to provide benefits and policies supporting employees with their own and family obligations and help employees identify and resolve various work and homelife issues including mental or physical health, family, financial, substance use, emotional, or other issues that may affect job performance.
  • Allow unpaid parental leave
  • Offer disability leave or insurance.
  • Offer flexible work schedules.
  • Offer paid family leave for new parents.
  • Allow employees to work from home.
  • Help cover childcare costs.
  • Offer onsite or offsite childcare.
  • Cover any costs of eldercare.
  • Offer onsite or offsite elder care.
  • Provide training in “Emotional Intelligence”.
  • Provide “stress management” information sessions.

Road Rage

  • Educate employee how to best manage and prevent driving aggressively and how to properly deal with confrontation on the road. AAAFTS suggests:
    • Don’t respond personally to other angry drivers on the road or drivers who may be driving irresponsibly.
    • Follow rules of the road including utilizing turn signals and maintaining a safe following distance.
    • Allow others to merge.
    • Utilize high beams responsibly.
    • When using the horn do not use long blasts with accompanying hand gestures.
    • Be considerate in parking lots. Do not cross multiple spaces, and be considerate of vehicles next to you when exiting the vehicle.
    • Avoid eye contact with angry drivers.
    • Don’t respond to aggression with aggression.
    • Drive to a public place when threatened such as a police station, hospital or fire station.
    • When parking, allow room to pull out safely if approached aggressively and use the horn to attract attention but remain in your locked vehicle.
    • If confronted, stay as calm and courteous as possible, and if threatened, call 911.