New data from Healthy Performance Ltd, Employee Health and Wellbeing Specialists, has highlighted a basic, but very key performance issue, that could be impacting on employees from across the UK – the good news is that this could be resolved relatively simply by raising awareness.
From April 2013 through to the end of March 2014, Healthy Performance conducted over 10,000 health checks on employees from different companies, working in various industries and there was a consistent trend throughout this period.
The data revealed that 26.3% of all employees tested were dehydrated – which is likely to have an impact on energy levels, fatigue, headaches and also increased levels of eating (as the brain finds it difficult to differentiate between hunger and thirst!).
To most organisations, the idea that some of their employees haven’t had enough to drink may seem a trivial matter. But think again! Our bodies use water for almost every function that it carries out and being dehydrated can have a negative effect on a person’s alertness and concentration, the quality of their work, their personal safety and that of others around them. It is therefore important to prioritise hydration in order to maintain mental and physical performance and wellbeing.
The brain is particularly sensitive to changes in water balance which in turn, can affect mental performance and productivity and a 2% reduction in hydration levels can cause a huge 20% reduction in both physical and mental activities.
The type of work we do also affects our water requirements. For example, strenuous work, especially on warm days can lead to increased perspiration and higher water requirements. Equally working in an air conditioned office can speed up moisture evaporation from our skin and lungs so we end up with increased water loss and the need to drink more water.
The best way to prevent dehydration is by regularly taking on fluid throughout the day. As a guide, just one cup of water every two hours should keep most people hydrated, plus maintain energy levels. By drinking small amounts of water, the body utilises the water – compare this to drinking a large amount of water quickly, where the body simply releases any excess fluid.
On the flips side, it is important to remember that drinks such as alcohol, coffee and tea work as a diuretic. In other words, they extract water from the body. So it is best to cut out or reduce the amount of fizzy drinks or caffeine that is consumed during the day.
Promoting hydration should involve a combination of strategies including assessment, education and inclusion of best practices that encourage fluid intake during the day. Companies should include hydration as part of their employee wellbeing programme and consider using initiatives such as pee charts which links the colour of urine and how hydrated you are (we provide these free as part of our hydration awareness days). Encouraging hydration can have a positive impact on your company’s overall performance and safety record, as well as the general wellbeing and health of your staff.