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Canadians Nourishing Canadians At Work and At Home



Hydration in the Workplace: Keeping Employees Hydrated Can Increase Productivity


There are several factors that can contribute to dehydration in the workplace: environment, amount of physical activity, diet and illnesses or health conditions.  Outside workers are obviously more at risk of dehydration in the summer, but even indoor office workers get dehydrated.  Studies have shown that even slight dehydration can decrease employee productivity.


Quick Facts About Dehydration in the Workplace

  • Most people think about drinking water only when they are thirsty. By then it may already be too late

  • Even mild dehydration can alter a person's mood, energy level and ability to think clearly, according to two studies recently conducted at the University of Connecticut's Human Performance Laboratory.1 The test results indicated that it didn't matter if a person had just walked for 40 minutes or had been sitting at rest – the adverse effects from mild dehydration were the same

  • A headache is one of the early signs of dehydration, along with feelings of tiredness and lightheadedness. Headaches resulting from mild dehydration can often be relieved quickly (within 30 minutes) by drinking a tall glass of water

  • Drinking an extra litre of water per day has been shown to help reduce headache duration and intensity in individuals who are susceptible to headache or migraine

Mild dehydration is defined as an approximately 1.5% loss in normal water volume in the body. Because about 65% of your body is made up of water, it is essential to keep your body functioning properly and to regulate body temperature. It flushes out wastes and toxins, helps digestion, lubricates the joints and eyes, and keeps skin healthy.


The tests conducted by the University of Connecticut found that mild dehydration caused headaches, fatigue, tension, difficulty concentrating, anxiety and some difficulty with mental tasks, particularly in the areas of alertness and working memory.


Employees who don't drink enough liquids to replace the water they lost through sweating and everyday activities can start to suffer the effects of dehydration. When the water content of your body is reduced, it upsets your internal balance of minerals (salts and sugar) and affects the way your body functions. Even a small loss in bodily fluids can cause a loss of energy in the average person. A 15% drop in bodily fluids can cause death.


Dehydration affects everyone, and staying properly hydrated is as important for those who work all day at a computer as it is for marathon runners, who can lose up to 8% of their body weight in water when they compete.


In indoor environments where there is poor air conditioning or in a workplace such as a call centre where there are many computers operating in one room, the air can become unacceptably dry and lead to dehydration.


What Employers Can Do to Prevent Dehydration in the Workplace

  • The law requires employers to provide an adequate supply of drinking water for all persons at work in the workplace. Water must be readily accessible at suitable places and conspicuously marked by an appropriate sign

  • Employers have a duty to provide and maintain a safe working environment by showing employees how to recognize the symptoms of dehydration and how to protect themselves against it

  • Drinking water should not be situated where contamination is likely, such as in a workshop where lead is handled or in toilet facilities or washrooms

  • Workers should be encouraged to drink water regularly in small amounts throughout the day rather than just responding to thirst or drinking at mealtimes

  • These messages should be reinforced with ongoing training and visual reminders, such as posters, to encourage employees to hydrate themselves regularly and watch for signs of dehydration

  • Hand out reusable water bottles to keep on employees’ desks to remind them to drink water

  • Make drinking water readily accessible by placing multiple water coolers in convenient places close to their working areas



1The dehydration studies were supported by Danone Research of France and were conducted in partnership with the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, the University of Arkansas and the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital's Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine in Dallas, Texas. 


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