Your People Might Suffer from Decision Fatigue

When the whole world feels dangerous, your people might suffer from decision fatigue.

With the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, our "new normal" means that tasks which used to be routine may now have more steps and be more complicated. We're all spending time and energy making decisions that we didn’t have to think about a couple months ago. For instance, what used to be an ordinary trip to the grocery store now takes planning, hand sanitizer, a mask, and patience.

In psychology and decision science, decision fatigue describes why people are more likely to make poor choices when they are at the end of a long session of decision making. As a supervisor, it’s up to you to make it easier for your people to make the right safety decision every time.

When you create and implement safety rules for the jobsite, you're getting your people to form safety habits that don’t require analytic thinking. On a busy jobsite, people have to make split-second choices all the time—and each decision requires mental effort. So, by enforcing simple safety rules that are easy and painless to follow, you free up mental energy for your people to make good choices when they have to think carefully.

Make simple decisions easy by turning them into habits:

  • Upon entering the jobsite, workers have to put on a cloth mask, wash their hands, and then put on the rest of their required PPE. When all workers wear cloth masks all the time, they don't have to decide when and where to put them on and take them off. It's your jobsite. You make the rules. Your people don't get to decide when to wear safety glasses, and it won't be long before masks are just another kind of required PPE.

Make more complicated decisions easier by supporting your people:

  • Encourage collaboration. People are more likely to make better safety decisions when they can talk about it with their co-workers. But collaboration may take more effort when your crew is busy and practicing physical distancing, and wearing masks that make communication more difficult. Think of innovative ways that can get your people to connect, especially when they're making important decisions.
  • Encourage your people to ask questions. Be prepared to do some on-the-spot safety training. Call us if you need a hand. We can offer S.A.F.E. cards and COVID-19 safety meetings.
  • Encourage breaks. Get your people to rest their bodies and minds. You may need to build more breaks into the schedule to give them time to go outside, breathe some fresh air, and re-connect.