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Managing employees’ Directed Attention Fatigue

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If you are a Retailer, by now you have started prepping for the busy Christmas season. Thoughts of stock levels and manpower must be front of your mind. Both staff and stock are equally important as you could lose sales if you have stock but insufficient staff to sell or if you have staff but insufficient stock.

Particularly during busy seasons, the jobs of frontline employees could be taxing and how they feel can have a big impact on their customer service. It is not uncommon when working in a fast-paced customer service environment for frontline employees to feel tired and drained. Continuously hopping from one task to another can lead to something called Directed Attention Fatigue.

According to Dr Rachel Kaplan, Dr Stephen Kaplan, Dr Bernadine Cimprich, and colleagues of the University of Michigan, we show signs of Directed Attention Fatigue when we temporarily feel unusually distractible, impatient, forgetful, and cranky, and there is no physical cause. “Directed Attention Fatigue is a neurological symptom which occurs when the inhibitory attention system, that part of the brain which allows us to concentrate in the face of distractions, becomes fatigued.”

In an article published by Troutfoot.com titled ‘What is Directed Attention Fatigue’, the signs of DAF are explained:

  • Input – We may feel more distractible, have trouble listening, hear things wrong, or miss things.
  • Thinking – We may have trouble focusing, leave things half done, forget things, lose things and find it hard to think.
  • Acting – We may act on impulse, take chances, act impatient, make more mistakes, blurt things out, jump to conclusions, and overindulge.
  • Emotions – We may feel more irritable, bothered by small stuff, find it harder to handle noise and commotion and feel moody.
  • Planning – We may find it harder to make plans and decisions.

We may lose our perspective.

  • People – We may be more likely to take offense, laugh, cry or talk too much, or at the wrong times. We may be less likely to help, be considerate, and give other people a break.

As an employer, you can help to manage employees Directed Attention Fatigue by averaging overtime per employee, averaging work hours per week, averaging number of consecutive days worked and length of shifts. Also, be considerate to your staff. When you show that you care, they will work in your best interest.

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