It is fair to say that many government decisions are not particularly good. There may be an obvious reason for this emerging. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is “unapologetic” about his staff working long hours and there being a high turnover rate of staff.
Apparently staff can start at 4.30 am and still be on the go at 10pm.Seven day weeks are not unusual. Mr Rudd claimed a year in politics is like a dog year, seven years crammed into one. He claimed that people expected their government and politicians to work hard.
It seems the PM is unable to differentiate between quality and quantity when it comes to work. Furthermore he also seems to be unaware of the health effects of long hours and its impact on decision-making and the impact of high turnover.
Any human resources manager will tell you that staff turnover places a huge burden on business. There is loss of corporate knowledge, and the time taken to get a new staff member up to speed can be some months. All the while productivity suffers. This is quite aside the monetary costs of paying people out and the costs of recruitment. In business these costs affect profit whereas in government it is just borne by the taxpayer.
It gets worse. Sleep deprivation affects both health and productivity. NASA studies have shown that after 20 hours continually awake your brain is affected the same as with a blood alcohol reading of 0.05%. This is the cut off level governments set in most countries for drink driving. At this level you are not fit to drive. So how can you run the country?
In addition to this lack of sleep contributes to an increased rate of high blood pressure and heart disease. People who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be obese. When they do finally drive home, obviously there is a greater chance of a road collision and injury to them or someone else. Lack of sleep contributes to stress and in turn this can increase the likelihood of getting cancer five fold over a ten-year period.
For governments who claim to be concerned about health and wanting the population to be healthier this is a strange way to act. However even if we totally ignore this (and one wonders what the Health Minister would say if a public company forced employees to work these hours) there is another aspect.
Experiments have also been done on productivity and sleep. Sleep deprived people are less likely to work co operatively with others, are more irrational and more prone to emotional outbursts. Has anyone ever seen the behaviour of a tired child? Well it is the same in adults.
People want government to be effective. This is measured by outcome not hours spent. Indeed what we are seeing is that the modus operandi of government leads to poorer results by making its employees less healthy and getting them to work when their brains are far past their best for the day.
I would not want to be operated on by a surgeon with a blood alcohol level of 0.05% or equivalent in sleep deprivation. I do not want decisions made about the governing of the country by people with a blood alcohol of 0.05% or the equivalent in sleep deprivation.
The final irony is that the hard work keeping everyone up was on … health reform.