Humans vs. Machines: The Impact of Fatigue on Productivity

fatigued worker

Suffering from lost productivity in the workplace?

In a manufacturing environment, if a critical machine is faulty or broken, it’s immediately fixed for output to resume so that minimal downtime occurs. If a machine is kept in good working condition, errors rarely happen. While there is a great deal of emphasis ensuring machinery doesn’t break down, humans do not fare as well. Human error, which accounts for up to 80% of preventable accidents and incidents on the job frequently directly correlates to fatigue, which often can be avoided with simple maintenance. Both machines and humans are prone to breaking down over time; machines due to wear and exertion, and humans often by lack of quality sleep. When either break down, each underperform leading to accidents, errors, and productivity losses.


Workplace fatigue and tiredness represent significant challenges because engagement, productivity, and errors impact the bottom line. The same companies which invest in keeping their manufacturing lines running must also consider the human side of the equation…without proper sleep, their employees will equally underperform, thus, causing massive lost productivity in the workplace.

It’s important to understand the effect of workplace fatigue on employees when their sleep is compromised. Currently, over 80 different sleep disorders have been identified and approximately 45% of the US population is affected. As workplace fatigue sets in, decision making, reaction time, and productivity are impaired. This leads to lost productivity in the workplace and a decrease in company sales. This is especially true for those with either physically or cognitively demanding roles. Because humans do not respond to work like machines, the relationship between task hours and output is not the same. Studies demonstrate that decrements in output occur after 50-55 hours for humans versus 80 hours for machines. Also, as people grow fatigued, performance levels dramatically decline, resulting in lost productivity in the workplace, which declines to a range of 40 hours. This is primarily due to the fact that human fatigue impacts operational efficiencies by up to 50%.

In the following video, sleep expert, Dr. Jeffrey Durmer discusses the what companies can do to prevent workforce fatigue.


Population research over the past 30 years demonstrates that more and more adults are getting less and less sleep. Sleep problems like insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, and restless sleep are increasingly noted in the US. High-quality sleep not only improves health and performance, it also prevents disease, mental errors, accidents and creates a more efficient workplace. As a leader in population sleep health management, FusionHealth understands the importance of healthy sleep for the workforce. Companies that act to address sleep health issues and ensure their employees remain in working order stand to see measurable increases in productivity from their human capital, reductions in preventable accidents and important improvements related to increased worker engagement.

How much is poor sleep costing your business? Calculate the cost at:

1. Aas, A. L. (2008, January 1). The Human Factors Assessment and Classification System (HFACS) for the Oil & Gas Industry. International Petroleum Technology Conference. doi:10.2523
2. Occupational Safety and Health Administration
3. Nevison JM. Overtime Hours: The Rule of Fifty. Project Solutions Report. 2001.

Humans vs. Machines: The Impact of Fatigue on Productivity