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Managing fatigue during COVID-19

We all experience tiredness at times which is a concern. Fatigue is a feeling of constant tiredness, no energy with a greater need to sleep. Fatigue also causes a reduction in alertness.

Symptoms of fatigue include:

  • doing tasks in the wrong order
  • finding it increasingly difficult to perform more than one task at once
  • forgetting to do things often
  • working on automatic and not thinking
  • falling asleep for small amounts of time
  • feeling tired or yawning all the time
  • being more irritable than usual
  • being frustrated by tasks
  • having difficulty concentrating
  • being uncommunicative

Feeling fatigued when coming off your shift

If you feel fatigued coming off your shift, you should raise any concerns you have with your line manager. Your line manager can advise you of additional supports that may be available to you for example, off-site accommodation and psychosocial supports.

Contact the staff helpline at 1850 420 420. Monday to Friday 9.00am to 6.00pm.

Driving when fatigued

If you have to drive a long distance home, you should consider if you're fit enough for the journey.

If you do not feel fit enough to drive home, ask your manager if there is somewhere you can rest before driving.

It will help your energy levels, to have a snack and a drink before you start the drive home. Let a family member or friend know what time you expect to be home.

Before you start your journey, make sure you have:

  • a charged mobile phone
  • fuel
  • defroster spray

It can help to listen to music, a podcast or audiobooks on your journey.

If you get fatigued whilst driving, follow the advice of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) - stop, sip, sleep. Pull over in a safe place, sip coffee and sleep for 15 minutes.

Feeling fatigued at work

If you're feeling fatigued at work, you should raise any concerns you have with your line manager.

If you need to talk to someone in confidence at work, you can contact your local Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). EAP offers counselling and psychosocial support to staff.

A dedicated staff helpline is available during COVID-19:

Phone: 1850 420 420.
Monday to Friday: 9.00 am to 6.00 pm

Causes of fatigue

At work

Some of the causes for feeling fatigued at work include:

  • increased workloads
  • longer work hours
  • extra work pressures and stress
  • working in unfamiliar work locations
  • working alongside unfamiliar colleagues
  • looking after safety and wellbeing of other healthcare workers
  • burden of decision making, for example, prioritising the use of scarce resources
  • prioritising duties outside the scope of practice


Some of the personal causes for feeling fatigued include:

  • poor diet, eating on the go, snacking and not having regular healthy meals
  • not drinking enough water and keeping hydrated
  • not getting good sleep and poor sleeping habits
  • working without breaks
  • not getting fresh air and daylight
  • not building good self-care techniques to switch off and rest when coming off shift
  • not having good personal support structures
  • not raising concerns or getting support when feeling fatigued
  • not noticing risks or taking unusual risks
  • responding slowly to situations

Self-care tips

Some ways to practice self-care include:

  • eating good nutritious food
  • keeping well hydrated
  • getting rest and naps where you can and try to get adequate sleep
  • getting fresh air and exercise where you can
  • making sure you are okay to drive when coming off a long shift
  • speaking to someone about any concerns you may have

How line managers can support staff

You can find out if there are local supports available to staff coming off duty. These could include off-site accommodation and welfare arrangements with local facilities.

You can help your staff by:

  • keeping staff updated on supports available
  • checking-in with staff whilst on-duty
  • looking for signs of fatigue in staff coming off-duty
  • checking if staff are safe to drive, particularly if they have a long drive home
  • having an ‘open door policy’ encouraging staff to approach you with any difficulties they may have

Staff supports

The local Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) offers counselling and psychosocial support to staff.

A dedicated staff helpline is available during COVID-19:

Phone: 1850 420 420.
Monday to Friday: 9.00 am to 6.00 pm

Related content

Minding your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak

EAP counselling and psychosocial support

Workplace health and wellbeing

Temporary accommodation for healthcare workers during COVID-19

Page last reviewed: 17/04/2020
Next review due: 17/04/2023