Guest Blog | Dehydration & How it Affects Productivity

When it comes to productivity many of us forget about the importance of staying hydrated. Our brains are nearly 73% water – and therefore, even mild dehydration can affect cognitive ability.

How much water should we drink?

How much water a person needs is dependent on health and lifestyle factors, but in general, the Eatwell Guide suggests the average adult should aim to drink 6 – 8 glasses of liquid per day (around 1.2 to 1.5 litres).

The symptoms of mild dehydration can indicate that you need to drink more water. Common symptoms include a dry mouth, dry skin, dry eyes and joint pains.

Dehydration at work

Whether we work in an office or outside – it can be difficult to stay hydrated at work. External factors like weather and air conditioning units can make us lose water more quickly, and when we’re busy we often forget to fill up our bottles and drink water.

A study has shown that even the mildest dehydration can impair cognitive function – our energy levels, moods and memory function can be affected. Employers who want to ensure their employees are as healthy and productive as possible should encourage them to stay hydrated and be aware of the symptoms of dehydration.

Symptoms of dehydration

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Confusion and dizziness
  • Physical Performance

If we don’t drink enough water, the water levels in our brains can dip. When this happens our bodies use energy to conserve water in the brain, and this can result in us feeling tired and fatigued. Being tired is an obvious barrier to being productive. Tiredness impacts cognitive function – and can make is very difficult to concentrate on even the simplest tasks.

When this happens, many of us turn to coffee or tea – thinking caffeine is the solution to our tiredness, when this might have the opposite effect. The next time you feel tired or you’re finding it hard to concentrate – try a large glass of water.

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Dizziness and confusion can be a sign of dehydration. If our bodies are dehydrated, our blood pressure can drop. When this happens – the amount of oxygen being transported around the body can also drop and this is what causes the sensation of dizziness, or feelings of confusion. As with tiredness, feeling dizzy is not ideal if you’re trying to create a productive workplace. To prevent this, employers should create a workplace where staying hydrated is encouraged.

Dehydration affects physical performance. For those who work in physically demanding jobs, staying hydrated is important to ensure you can be as productive as possible at work.

Studies have shown that even a 2% decrease in water loss can cause a 20% decrease in physical performance. When water levels in the body fall – blood volume decreases and our blood becomes ‘thicker’. This causes our heart rate to rise – and makes physical work feel harder and more tiring.

How to Improve Hydration at Work

Employers looking to support employees and improve productivity should input strategies to encourage hydration at work.

  • Education
  • Water access points
  • Reminders

When it comes to helping employees stay hydrated – a good place to start is education. Make sure employees know how detrimental dehydration can be. This combined with sharing the benefits of staying hydrated can help to encourage workplaces to place more importance on drinking more water.

Making sure there are places for employees to access water – which is nice to consume. In the UK, we’re lucky enough to have clean and safe drinking water, but if you want to encourage more water consumption think about installing a water cooler.

Water coolers make water accessible to all. Many water coolers now come with bottle filling functionality and can provide cool and ice chilled water, both of which can make it more appealing to employees.

Often, we don’t drink enough water because we forget! Employers concerned about their employees’ hydration levels may want to think about providing employees with reminders – or accessories which include reminders.

Think about including reminders in calendars – or investing in water bottles that remind owners to drink more. 

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