When performing highly repetitive tasks, it’s not uncommon to go on autopilot. If you’re thinking about the score of the last game, or what you’re having for dinner tonight, then you’re not thinking about the task at hand – and more importantly, the things you should be thinking about to keep yourself and others safe. Especially in many manufacturing operations, there may not be a great variety of different work processes, so transferring a worker from one boring task to another may not help. When bored workers zone out, what can you do to keep them safe in a highly-repetitive, fast-paced environment?
If you can’t change the work process, change the environment.
Pump music into the work area, slap a fresh coat of paint on the walls, and decorate the space. Put up some updated safety posters (something eye-catching and humorous, like the Simpsons).
Turn work into a game.
Everybody enjoys a good game. Games are a source of fun and entertainment which can relax our brains and allow us to become more focused. They also appeal to our competitive nature and desire to win. Supervisors can capitalize on this by engaging workers in games designed to reward and recognize good behavior.
Encourage bored workers to stay vigilant by rewarding them for working safely. Supervisors can award prizes or points redeemable free lunches, coffee cards, or event tickets. Random days, at the supervisor’s discretion, can be designated as ‘power-up’ days for double points or bigger prizes. Think like a gamer! Consider game elements like levels (an indication of status based upon the accumulation of points/prizes), quests (challenges or tasks to be completed within a specified period of time), and points (any numerical value assigned to a particular action or a combination of actions).
The rewards you choose can be set up to recognize shifts, teams, individuals over any block of time – days, weeks, or months.
Allow shorter, more frequent breaks.
This is especially important for workers engaged in repetitive, non-stimulating tasks. Encourage workers to go outside for fresh air if they work mainly indoors. If you have a break room, provide reading material like newspapers or magazines. Even if the breaks are only a minute or two, give workers the chance to catch up on local news, take a short walk, stretch, eat a snack, and drink water. Mental and physical breaks allow workers to recharge, with the added benefit of preventing eye and muscle strain.
Help your workers get comfortable.
Kneeling, bending, sitting, or crouching for long periods of time can lead to muscle and joint strain. Listen to your workers and help them avoid working in awkward positions. Encourage them to change positions, and if possible, switch or alternate tasks with co-workers to maintain their productivity and health. Promote brief stretches and exercises before shifts to reduce strain and fatigue.