How to Combat the Dangers of Workplace Complacency

Originally published October 17, 2022 in OH&S

Workers who are complacent may be at risk for fatigue, injuries and other safety hazards.

By Paul Goren | Monday, October 17, 2022

Completing the same task every day can get more than a little repetitive. After doing something so often, it becomes a habit and autopilot kicks in. Less concentration and thinking are required to complete the task. The brain can travel elsewhere or check out completely. That’s what happens when workers begin to feel complacent.


The Dangers of Workplace Complacency

When workers are feeling complacent, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are unhappy with their job. It often means they are comfortable to the point that they are less open to change and less motivated to improve or innovate. They’re going through the motions of the day to day and completing their tasks without much thought. And that’s where safety can be in jeopardy.

If workers are too comfortable on the worksite or working on autopilot, they’re not as likely to notice or recognize unsafe situations. They might start to cut corners in their daily tasks, like not wearing protective glasses or gloves, with the rationale that they’ve done this task a million times and never had any mishaps. They might start to zone out on the job and be less aware of their surroundings, unable to step in when they see dangers that could impact their colleagues.

Complacency can even lead to burnout when workers become disengaged from their work. If unchecked, workplace complacency can create a stagnant environment that doesn’t challenge workers to think strategically or grow. This can lower morale across the site, leading to decreased productivity and poorer outcomes for both workers and leadership. But complacency isn’t permanent.


Curbing Complacency with Wellness

It’s hard to deny the connection between mental health and safety. Incidents often occur when workers are mentally checked out and not paying attention to their surroundings. To combat complacency, the responsibility is on site leadership to keep employees engaged and feeling fulfilled by their work. That starts with viewing worker mental health and wellness as a key driver of success and making it an everyday priority.

When workers feel cared for by their employer, their motivation increases and their productivity improves. There are a few ways site leadership can address wellness and build a culture of care that prevents workplace complacency.

  1. Promoting mental preparedness

Tradespeople on construction sites or at manufacturing facilities are completing manual tasks for extended periods of time – routines that come with both physical and mental challenges. But often, preparation for the day ahead is overlooked on worksites. Instead, sites should take a cue from professional sports. Any athlete has to prepare both mentally and physically for a big game. From thinking through plays or tactics, to stretching and strength training. The same is true for workers.

Promoting mental preparedness on a jobsite can be as simple as reminding workers to hydrate and get enough sleep each night, both of which can significantly impact a worker’s energy levels and performance. With more rest and proper hydration, workers are more alert and engaged in their work, leaving less room for complacency to sneak in. Site leaders can take this a step further with hydration or sleep challenges that encourage workers to participate and adopt healthier habits.

There’s also an important physical component to mental preparedness. Providing onsite athletic training is a way to help workers physically prepare for their tasks every day. Athletic trainers can look at each task and provide tailored stretches or strengthening exercises to help workers prepare for the task and feel better at the end of the day. When workers can go home feeling good, they’re more likely to show up the next day with a fresh mind and sharp focus.

  1. Adopting environmental wellness

Another way to keep workers engaged on the jobsite is by adopting environmental wellness strategies. Environmental wellness is really about making worksites more comfortable for workers and more conducive to wellbeing. Baseline environmental wellness initiatives include cleaner and nicer hygiene amenities, but these initiatives should be taken further to truly address and support employee wellness. Things like hydration stations or stretching stations, where workers can conveniently take a break for themselves, are proven to help workers prioritize their health and remain focused on the job.

Environmental wellness initiatives can also include lifestyle services like onsite haircuts and preventive health screenings, or smoothie stations and food trucks. It’s a way for leadership to show workers they care about their health and wellness and can help break up the repetitiveness of daily tasks with rotating stations and offerings. Bringing these services onsite provides a convenience for workers and allows them the time to take care of themselves during the workday.

On top of helping to prevent complacency, adopting environmental wellness initiatives can help worksites see greater worker productivity, reduced absenteeism and increased employee retention.

  1. Engaging employees mentally and physically

It might sound obvious but creating ways for employees to be engaged in their physical and mental health while at work is a key driver of overall workforce wellness. Finding ways to break up the hours of the day with group or solo activities can help keep workers energized over long workdays.

Morning group stretches are a great way to bring the site together to start the day on a good note. Bringing a wellness cart onsite throughout the day is another way to get workers to leave their stations and take a short break for their mental health. Leadership can also coordinate micro-sessions with guest speakers who can talk about health topics specific to that site, like how to manage blood sugar or the signs of depression. These sessions provide both valuable information for workers and an opportunity to rest and focus their attention on something other than their daily tasks. Mind, body, safety chats are another way leaders can engage workers to open up about their health concerns and address them.


When every worker is empowered to be at their healthiest, they’re able to show up every day feeling good and at their best – decreasing the probability of complacency. All it takes is reminding workers to think about their health and giving them the time and space to do it on the worksite.


Empowering a Driven and Productive Workforce

Workplace complacency creates dangers for everyone on a worksite. For workers, it leads to higher risk of injury. For leaders, it leads to poor morale and decreased productivity. As such, preventing complacency should be a top business priority.

Luckily, there are multiple tactics leadership can leverage to keep workers engaged in both their work and their health. The two go hand in hand when it comes to building a workforce that is motivated, productive and constantly improving. Empowering workers to take care of their physical and mental health is key to cutting through complacency and keeping it at bay.

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