Did you know that nearly 73% of our brain is water? So, it’s hardly surprising that dehydration can have a significant impact on your mind. Research shows that at just 1% of body water loss, workers begin to experience decreased cognitive abilities, reduced concentration and alertness, and slower reaction times. The more dehydrated a worker becomes, the more impaired they become. A 3-4% dehydration can bring about a 25% decline in worker productivity. It can slow an employee’s reaction time to the same degree as a 0.08% blood alcohol content.

What does this mean for worker safety? Keep in mind that at .08 blood alcohol content (BAC), you are five times more likely to be in a car accident. The impact of dehydration on the body and mind is significant, putting the employee’s health in jeopardy. And the level of impairment, puts the entire workplace at risk of increased accidents and injuries. Yet, while most employers would never allow a delivery driver or forklift operator to perform tasks with a 0.08 BAC, they don’t think about monitoring hydration levels in their employees the same way.

At the same time, the decrease in productivity caused by dehydration has a direct impact on a business’s bottom line. Yet, whether workers are getting enough to drink is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when employers think about the loss of profit.

A 2013 study found that water positively affected visual attention 20 to 40 minutes post-consumption and resulted in a 14% increase in worker productivity. These findings are especially significant for workers who spend hours at their desks and computer screens conducting tasks that require visual attention and alertness but may not be thirst-inducing.

Dehydration Impairs Physical and Mental Performance

Employees often experience symptoms but don’t realize that they are caused by no not consuming enough liquids. Here is a list of common symptoms or signs to look out for:

  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fatigue or sleepiness
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Brain fog

Why Water Alone Is Not Enough

While most employers offer water (among a variety of other drinks options), water alone isn’t enough to replenish vital electrolytes essential to the body’s cellular functions. Proper hydration is not about how much water you drink. Instead, it’s about how much water your body absorbs. Electrolytes (sodium and potassium) play a crucial role in how your body absorbs water and nutrients. They perform critical roles by helping your cells absorb nutrients and eliminate waste.

When your body becomes depleted of essential electrolytes, your cells and organs are unable to function correctly. That’s why drinking water alone isn’t the only weapon against fighting symptoms of dehydration. Your body often needs a balance of both water and electrolytes throughout the day to be properly hydrated. Electrolyte-infused water, Sports drinks, coconut water and even milk are all good sources of electrolytes, that employers could make available.

If, as an employer, you have never thought about making sure your employees consume enough liquids during the day, it may be time to start considering it – for the sake of their safety and your bottom line. Raising awareness in your workforce about the importance of staying hydrated is a good first step.