Healthy Hydration Leads to Higher Performance

As summer temperatures creep up, there’s a good chance that your employees aren’t staying properly hydrated. According to Medical Daily, up to 75 percent of Americans are in a state of chronic dehydration—and even slight dehydration can impact workplace productivity, alertness and reaction times.

Effects of dehydration on productivity

We may think of dehydration as simply being thirsty. By the time we feel even a little parched, though, we’re likely already in a state of mild dehydration. According to Dr. John Berardi et al, in “The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition,” we usually don’t notice that we’re thirsty until we have lost about 1 to 2 percent of our body water. At that point, performance has already begun to suffer. And, unlike other conditions, we can’t adapt to fluid loss; we have to replenish.

Losing even small amounts of water has consequences. Studies show that just a half-percent loss increases the strain on our hearts, and a 1 percent reduction in hydration can result in decreased cognitive abilities, concentration and alertness, as well as slower reaction times. 

When fluid loss gets to 3 to 4 percent, we can expect to see a 25 percent decline in worker productivity, according to Premium Waters (“Dehydration Impacts Workplace Productivity,” August 2, 2017). In fact, at 3 percent, a person’s reaction time can be slowed to the same extent as .08 blood alcohol content. And at .08 blood alcohol, a person is five times more likely to be in a car accident. So, a 3 percent dehydration drop at work will not only slow workplace productivity, but also it will increase the likelihood that a person would suffer a workplace accident.

Because dehydration can reduce both mental and  physical performance, proper hydration is vital for workers whether they are working in the office, on the shop floor, in a warehouse, or at a construction site. In addition to warmer temps, Increased workloads, stress, commuting, and dry air all can contribute to fluid loss. 

Signs of dehydration

Here are some signs of moderate dehydration:

  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness
  • Thirst
  • Dry skin
  • Headaches
  • Lightheadedness
  • Decreased urine output

 

How much fluid is enough?

The best fluid to drink is water. Diet sodas, coffee, tea and energy drinks can be dehydrating if consumed in large quantities, so these beverages should not be viewed as replacements. And because we can’t store fluids, we need to replenish them daily. 

The National Research Council recommends drinking about a quart (4 cups) of water for every 1,000 calories expended, which is approximately twelve cups for a man and nine for a woman. More is needed if you exercise or spend a lot of time outside. This is in addition to the water found in certain foods, such as vegetables and fruits.

The bottom line? Drinking plenty of water is essential to one’s overall health, well-being, and workplace productivity. Without convenient delivery services to your office, your employees and customers may not be properly hydrating or refueling their bodies for maximum energy and vitality.

Ways to get more water

Vincent Emery of RESO Corporation, in “The Impact of Dehydration on Job Performance,” offers several tips for getting more water throughout the day:

  • Drink one 8 oz. glass of water every hour while at work. 
  • When you're craving food, drink a glass of water. That craving may be the result of dehydration, and the water will help you feel full.
  • Drink through a straw. You will tend to take larger sips.
  • If you are having some fruit juice, cut it one-for-one with water.
  • After each trip to the restroom, drink a glass of water to replenish your system.
  • If you drink diet soda during the day, drink two glasses of water between each 12 ounces of soda.
  • At each meal, drink at least two glasses of water.
  • With each snack, drink a glass of water.

 

“Staying properly hydrated will help keep your body feeling great and performing at its best,” says Emery. “Proper hydration increases energy levels, makes you more alert, and can even help reduce stress.”

Make hydration a safety priority

Because dehydration can play a large role in workplace accidents, it’s important to educate employees and encourage them to be proactive about their hydration before, during and after work hours. 

Just as human resources (HR) and safety managers regularly conduct “tool talks” on how workers can safely operate machinery and equipment, it’s important to offer similar safety talks on proper hydration to promote employee health and safety.  Environment, health and safety (EHS) solutions, such as  SafetyTek, can help managers: 

  • Schedule such talks to align with environmental conditions where there’s greater risk of dehydration.
  • Deliver the talks to employees, from sending invites to managing content.
  • Track which workers have participated in the training.  

 

In higher risk environments where employees work remotely—for example, utilities and construction—HR and safety managers may want to also have workers self-report signs of dehydration via a simple survey sent to their mobile phones. If certain boxes are checked, these employees could get a reminder to take a water break. 

Collaborating with employees on maintaining healthy hydration is one more way that companies can both protect workers and improve performance.