Assessing Hydration Status in the Workplace – Results

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Assessing Hydration Status in the Workplace – Results

Well documented across many studies is that even mild dehydration leads to losses in cognitive and mental performance. A Loughborough study last year, funded in part by the impartial European Hydration Institute, took this research finding one step further and analysed the impact mild dehydration had on driver performance, it showed conclusively that driver dehydration and impaired driving performance were linked providing yet another compelling argument for ensuring workers remain properly hydrated throughout their work day to perform at their best.

Following on from similar studies, Loughborough University ran another study to examine the hydration levels of workers across a number of different work environments – this was prompted in part by previous research in which it came to light that the majority of employees began their work day already hypohydrated (dehydrated) and did not drink enough water at work to replenish lost fluids – a worrying concern for any business where productivity and performance are paramount.

This blog series takes a closer look at the study – Part I dealt with the hypothesis and Part II the methodology , in this, Part III, the final in the series, we examine the results: 

Did workers begin their day dehydrated; did they have access to water at wok; did access to toilet facilities or other factors affect their replenishment of lost fluids; did hydration affect their levels of concentration and sense of wellbeing; and did they end their day euhydrated (the optimal level of hydration) or dehydrated? 

To recap, the work groups constituted: research students; classroom taught students; teachers; security staff; firefighters; office workers; and catering staff.

Did workers begin their day dehydrated?

According to urine samples taken at the start of their work day, 54% of the 156 participants began work already dehydrated – 64% of the men were dehydrated as opposed to 42% of the women.

Did they have access to water at work?

The vast majority (98%) had access to drinks. Interestingly enough, to prevent hydration, The Food Standards Agency recommends a daily intake of 1.2 litres from beverages (one of the lowest recommended daily intakes) and taking that into account, only five groups reported drinking close to that or more while classroom taught students and teachers – those restricted by breaks and limited in their access to water and toilet facilities – weren’t even able to meet this conservative minimum requirement.

Did access to toilet facilities or other factors affect their replenishment of lost fluids?

Of the 156 subjects, 67% said barriers to drinking water at work included a lack of toilet facilities, sensations of thirst, the timing of their breaks, and their access to drinks in a specific environment – whether they were teaching, in a laboratory or on call for example.

Did hydration affect their levels of concentration and sense of wellbeing?

Cognitive and mental performance deteriorates as dehydration increases, so too does the ability to focus. In the study 45% of the participants felt their concentration was affected if they didn’t drink enough water – experienced tiredness and hunger levels were higher at the end of the work day, while concentration and energy levels were lower across all work groups.

Did they end their day euhydrated (the optimal level of hydration) or dehydrated?

At the start of the work day 54% of the subject group were already dehydrated – at the end of the work day, 35% of the total group finished their shift dehydrated with 52% of the original 54% remaining dehydrated.

Interestingly enough, of the 65% that felt they kept themselves hydrated throughout their work shift, 30% in fact weren’t euhydrated by the end of the day.

One finding was of particular pertinence and showcases yet again how important a holistic approach, similar to the one provided in the Driving Hydration package, is to combating the adverse effects of dehydration.

“The firefighting group reported greater water intake during the observed shift compared with all the other groups. The firefighters are generally encouraged to drink during the shift by management and through urine colour charts in the toilets. Compared to other groups they have previously been made aware of the necessity to drink and maintain hydration status to prevent declines in cognitive and physical performance through initiatives and regular health testing.  

It has been shown that educating workers about dehydration, whilst assessing hydration status and implementing a water replacement program increases the likelihood of arriving at work and remaining in a euhydrated state.”

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