Workload analysis is commonly used by coaches of elite sports teams and individuals to ensure training and game loads are optimal to avoid injury. But it is an equally effective tool in the workplace, particularly those who do heavy or repetitive tasks.
What is Workload Analysis?
Your workload is a combination of the external and internal loads.
External Load at work includes hours worked, steps taken, weights of packages lifted and number of orders packed. In sporting terms this is the distance run, weight lifted, kms cycled/swam, repeated sprints/jumps and GPS tracking data.
Internal Load at work (or in sport) includes heart rate (HR), rate of perceived exertions (RPE) and/or well-being scores.
External loads remains fairly consistent from one work shift to the next whereas internal load is quite variable. For example you may have a higher heart rate or RPE when you are:
- feeling emotional (sad or stressed)
- have had poor sleep and recovery
- are unwell
- if you have recently been working more hours or doing heavier work.
A simple and effective way to measure your workload is using the following formula
Workload = Time worked in minutes X RPE (how hard you rate your shift)
RPE is measured on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being sleep and 10 being extremely hard exertion.
For example if you worked an 8hour shift with an average RPE over the shift of 6/10 your workload would be measured as follows
(8 x 60mins) x 6 = 2880units
Why is this important?
Once you know how to measure your workload the next thing is to determine your acute vs chronic workload.
Acute Workload is the sum of your workload across the past 7days
Chronic Workload is the average weekly workload over the past 4weeks
Researchers have found there is a sweet spot in comparing the acute vs chronic workloads. This sweet spot is an acute to chronic workload rate of 0.8-1.3. Knowing where the sweet spot lies is key to reducing injuries and fatigue at work.
Lets look at this in practice…
Say the worker in our example above worked 5 x 8 hour shifts.
His acute workload = Daily workload x days worked
= 2880units x 5 days
Presuming over the past 4 weeks his workloads have been
Week 1 10,000
Week 2 5,000
Week 3 15,000
Week 4 10,000
The workers chronic workload is the average of these being
Chronic Workload = 10,000+ 5,000 + 15,000 + 10,000
= 10,000 units
The workers acute to chronic workload is
Acute Workload / Chronic Workload = 14,000/10,000 = 1.4
As we can see the worker in this example has a acute to chronic workload rate that is outside the sweet spot, meaning his work this week is too far above the average amount of work he has done over the past 4 weeks and he is a prime candidate for injury.
To minimise injury risk it is important to monitor the acute vs chronic workload rates for yourself or your employees as well as factors that impact on the internal loads like feeling more fatigued or stressed. Monitoring allows you to apply early intervention strategies that may avoid injury and time lost to injury or illness.