Researchers suggest working in a team when fatigued

Washington – Working in a team may help protect against the degraded performance associated with fatigue, indicates new research from London South Bank University.

The study (.pdf file) looked at 171 army officer cadets from the University of London Officer Training Corps (18 to 24 years old), working alone and in teams to complete a series of math problems. Some cadets were tested before training and others after they were exhausted from military drills, night watch and lack of sleep.

Although individual cadets suffering from fatigue performed worse than alert ones, teams of tired cadets performed as well as alert teams, according to a press release from the American Psychological Association, publisher of the journal where the study appeared.

The findings suggest teams may handle fatigue better than individuals because some team members may be less susceptible to fatigue and able to maintain their performance, the study said.

Researchers recommended that decisions be made by teams rather than individuals when fatigue is a factor, and that employers should train workers to identify inflexible thinking, which is associated with fatigue and can delay decision-making.

The study appeared online Aug. 15 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.

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