Dehydration at Work: Don’t Let it Affect Your Productivity
The vast majority of people spend the majority of their waking lives at work, and with the average person spending around 90,000 hours at their workplace in their lifetime, it is important to take care of our health when we are on the job. Sadly, the need to power through our daily workload often prevents us from taking care of ourselves, including drinking enough water. However, neglecting to hydrate properly can have serious negative impacts on our performance and health, which is why it is important for both employers and employees to understand the importance of staying hydrated while at work.
Dehydration: The Silent Killer
Dehydration is one of the most common health issues at the workplace. It is easy to forget to drink enough water when we are focused on our work or too busy to grab a glass of water. It is also common for people to turn to tea or coffee to stay alert during the day. Unfortunately, tea and coffee are diuretics, which means they increase urination, leading to dehydration. Sitting too far from the office water fountain or kitchen can also mean less likelihood of hydrating adequately.
Hydrating regularly is crucial, as it lubricates our joints and eyes, maintains healthy skin, aids digestion, eliminates toxins and optimizes the energy produced through our cells. Not hydrating properly can cause an imbalance of salts and sugars in the body, leading to other health problems. Besides reducing concentration, not hydrating properly can also create an unproductive work environment and affect the performance of individuals.
How Dehydration Affects Productivity
It is surprising how few people realize the benefits of drinking enough water and how it impacts our health and work life. As a result, many individuals neglect to drink more water, even if they know they haven’t always drunk enough during the day. A report showed that up to 75% of Americans don’t drink the recommended 10 cups of water a day issued by the Institute of Medicine. This means that many people are walking around in a state of mild to severe dehydration without even realizing it.
When we experience health problems such as severe tiredness, headaches, weight gain, high blood pressure or kidney complications, our first thought isn’t that we’re not drinking enough water. When it comes to our work, it can have serious implications – if an individual goes home due to an incessant headache or struggles with concentration, their colleagues and department may indirectly suffer as well.
A recent study found that dehydration costs US employers approximately $2.5 billion in lost productivity each year, as people take time off work due to chronic illness – many of which could be attributed to dehydration. A further study that looked at forest workers found a significant reduction in productivity in those who were in a state of dehydration.
What are the Signs of Dehydration?
We don’t always realize how much fluid we lose throughout the day and how important it is to rehydrate. Sweating, visiting the bathroom, and even respiration use up vital fluids in our body. Any vomiting, diarrhea, alcohol consumption, or excessive exercise can cause our water stores to deplete quickly.
There are several signs of mild to moderate dehydration which include: dry mouth, tiredness, less need to urinate, headaches, fogginess in the head, and lack of concentration. Severe dehydration could include symptoms such as: irritability, confusion, extreme thirst, quickened heartbeat, rapid breathing, and either no urination or urine that’s dark in color.
How Employers Can Avoid Dehydration in the Workplace
The awareness of the possible devastating effects of dehydration is paramount in our daily lives, and no more so than at work. There are several effective ways to encourage our workforce to keep water intake topped up.
1. Setting Up a Workplace Hydration Program
Encouraging employees and colleagues to keep hydrated is a key way to keep hydration to the maximum. Offices and other places of work can implement a system to do this in a clear and effective way by:
2. Providing Easily-Accessible Water
Employers can provide bottled water, create water stations throughout the workspace, and provide regular fresh water to water coolers to encourage people to drink more water, especially if there are fresh and appealing options available.
3. Educating People
While most people are aware they need to drink water, it’s easy to dismiss the implications of not doing so. Placing educational materials such as posters around the workplace showing the importance of keeping hydrated as well as how dehydration has a negative effect on health will keep people more aware and motivated to get that glass of water.
4. Appointing a Hydration Action Committee
Having accountability is really important when it comes to implementing a system and motivating people to drink more water. Employers can create a committee to ensure water supplies are adequate and find fun and innovative ways to keep people hydrated.
5. Livening Up Plain Water
Many people struggle to drink more water because they find it boring in taste. As a result, many reach for sodas and energy drinks, thinking they’re topping up their fluids effectively. There are several ways of livening up water such as making ice cubes out of 100% fruit juice and adding them to water (reducing the amount of sugar), keeping wedges of fruit such as cucumber, orange, lemon or melon for people to add to their glass of water or supplying large pitchers of water with infused fruits such as cucumber or orange for employees. Outside workers can be supplied with bottled water. This way, employers have more productive staff on their hands and employees are happy and hydrated.
6. Getting Rid of Sports Drinks and Sodas
By getting rid of sugary drinks such as sports drinks or sodas in an office setting, employers can encourage people to quench their thirst in a more positive and healthy way. Sugar-laden drinks will only serve to cause more problems with weight gain, sugar crashes, and headaches.
How Employees Can Make Sure They Hydrate Well
Drinking enough water is all about establishing a habit until it becomes second nature.
1. Use a Hydration Monitoring App
There are various free apps that remind you to drink water such as Daily Water, Waterlogged, or iDrated. They also let you add what you’ve drunk throughout the day, letting you see when you’ve drunk your recommended amount.
2. Always Carry a Water Bottle
Having a water bottle on you at all times will act as a constant reminder to drink. If you’re rushing from meeting to meeting, then having a bottle with you will counteract the excuse of being too busy to hydrate.
3. Eat More Water-Contained Foods
Fruits such as melons, apples, and oranges will boost your water intake so try to opt for these as a snack. When eating your lunch, always make sure you have a glass of water with you instead of other drinks like tea, coffee, or soda.
4. Set Yourself a Challenge
Fill a large 2L jug with water, place it near or on your desk, and challenge yourself to finish it by the time you leave work. Having a constant reminder in front of you will motivate you to get that water intake up.
5. Reduce Your Coffee and Tea Intake
Creating a habit of getting that morning coffee and continuing throughout the day is common. However, in reality, water can be more than enough to keep you alert. Try to find other ways to stay alert, so you don’t have to consume caffeine as often.
It’s no surprise that dehydration is a common health issue in the workplace. It is important to keep our bodies hydrated by drinking an adequate amount of water each day. To maintain a healthy and productive work environment, employers should consider creating a workplace hydration programme and provide an environment that encourages water consumption. For individuals, it’s all about establishing a habit of staying hydrated until it becomes second nature.
By implementing these simple changes, you can ensure that dehydration is no longer a concern in your workplace and reap the benefits of staying hydrated.