How Fit for Duty are You Each Day?

by Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer and Systems Guy, Great Systems

I am a big sports fan, just as I am addicted to process improvement and minimizing human error. We are going through a ‘sea change’ right now in professional football relative to judging the degree that an employee is fit for duty following a concussion. Efforts are also being made to better monitor and manage fatigue levels between games – both physical and mental.

The improved testing protocols that will emerge from these efforts to reduce on-the-job sports injuries to the brain and body will eventually find their way into the ‘regular’ business world. People who do high risk work will encounter these new tests before the rest of us in the workplace do. Who knows how far the new testing approaches will make into our world of work. Until then however, we are left to the devices, and the perceptions, we have to help judge when our employees are fit for duty or not. How do your leaders determine when an employee is fit for duty or not?

How Do You Know When Your People Fit for Duty?

How do you currently judge when your people are fit for duty (fit for work) or not? How do you assess whether you yourself are fit for duty? What does it really mean to be ‘fit for duty’? I initially was going to title this post ‘How Awake are You?” – I wanted my readers to think about what it really means to be awake – to be fully booted up mentally and physically. Most people go by physical appearance to make their primary assessment – speech and body movements may serve as secondary means of evaluation.

None of these approaches can effectively catch all of those people who are trying to work even though they are not fit to do so. Assessing one’s readiness for work is not a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ check. One can appear to be ready to go, and yet have quite the fuzzy brain. Too many people consider themselves ready for work when really they are not that ready to go yet.

That is where the improved testing protocols will come into play. These improved tests will more effectively gauge one’s decision speed and decision accuracy, much like the exercises on the website. If an employee fails to meet certain baselines for mental performance, they will not be allowed ‘back on the field’. Imagine if we had our leaders, or any employee for that matter, take such a test before they began work each day. What would the performance ramifications be? Where would performance improve? What types of new issues would be created?

The Future of Fit for Duty Testing

I am fully aware of the fact that these tests will be challenged in court, especially when they make it into the ‘regular’ business world (the not-NFL world). People are not going to like it when the tablet test says they are not mentally sharp enough to work that day. They are going to come up with all kinds of excuses for why the new testing approaches are unfair or somehow biased. At the same time however, the degree of enlightenment that will from realizing how many of our people are performing ‘slower than expected’ will be so significant that we will have to find a way to make some form of the tests work.

Right now, too many people are functioning at levels significantly below their mental potential simply because of things like poor diet, dehydration, lack of exercise, and insufficient sleep quality. Throw in stress, task overwhelm, and the effect of certain prescription (and possibly non-prescription) drugs, and you have quite the recipe for substandard performance on the job. It is easy to argue that it is not the place of the company to make an employee manage these ‘away from work’ performance influencers, but at the same time, where do we draw the line? What actions do we take when an employee’s behavior away from work affects their performance at work to a significant degree?OODA Loop and Fit for Duty

I don’t have answers for this one … yet. I think I support the use of these new tests, but at the same time, I am brutally aware of how they could be misused and misinterpreted. As work becomes less physical and more mental by design however, the effectiveness of our decision making OODA loops affects customer service, and in turn profits, to a greater degree. We have to do something to better utilize the untapped brainpower of our people, but what do we do when our people are doing things to themselves away from work to compromise this power?

I may not have many answers for this emerging workplace issue yet, but a lack of answers won’t prevent the technology from permeating our workplaces. Changes are already happening in the professional sports workplace. What stance will you take when improved fitness for work tests are proposed in your workplace? How fit for duty are your people? How fit for duty are you?

Keep improving! – Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer and Systems Guy, Great Systems

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