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From: Knowledge@Wharton

When Taking a Break Could Be a Matter of Life and Death

Knowledge@Wharton:

The so-called “secondary tasks” that many professionals are expected to attend to at work can become big problems when ignored over time — think about a trucker constantly forgetting to obey the speed limit, even if only by a few miles per hour. But new Wharton research shows for the first time that those little things can begin to slip through the cracks due to fatigue that develops even within a single work day. In some cases, that drop-off can cost tens of thousands of lives and cost billions of dollars a year.

Wharton operations and information management professor Katherine L. Milkman and Wharton Ph.D. student Hengchen Dai co-authored “The Impact of Time at Work and Time off from Work on Rule Compliance: The Case of Hand Hygiene in Healthcare.” The paper, also co-authored by David A. Hofmann and Bradley R. Staats at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, shows that health care workers’ already low compliance rates with hand cleaning mandates decline precipitously over the course of a typical work shift.

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