Home Features Personal Development Wake-up call: How to fight workplace fatigue

Wake-up call: How to fight workplace fatigue

Paul Lyons* takes advice from an expert in managing time in order to help those of us who battle constant fatigue both at work and at home.


Do you feel tired all the time?

Not just after lunch but a pervasive all-day feeling of fatigue?

Even though you think you have had enough sleep you feel physically and mentally exhausted. You are just surviving.

So why does this happen and how can you fix it?

In her Rescue Time article, writer Kayla Matthews describes the source of your tiredness as probably being work fatigue, and answers some important questions.

If you’re tired, you might feel that way for a day or two, but it will usually resolve itself after a couple of nights of quality sleep.

Fatigue, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated.

The Mayo Clinic defines work fatigue as: “Unrelenting exhaustion that isn’t relieved by rest, a nearly constant state of weariness that develops over time.”

Much like burnout, work fatigue is a constant state of tiredness that won’t go away.

Eventually, it seeps into other aspects of your life and makes it harder to focus, feel motivated, and potentially disconnect from work.

The changing nature of work is redefining daily schedules and making it more difficult to reenergise even on days off.

Remote work also plays a part in this change.

While remote workers often claim to be productive they are also more likely to work overtime and less likely to take a day off.

Remote workers also tend to work without a schedule, making it even more challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

One of the most common causes of work fatigue is a lack of adequate sleep.

Modern work schedules often force you to override your normal sleep patterns, with more than 43 per cent of American workers saying they regularly feel sleep-deprived.

The average office worker spends upwards of 10 hours a day staring at a screen.

Whilst some of that can be blamed on work, most people also spend leisure hours attached to mobile devices and laptops.

Devices that emit blue light, such as phones, tablets, and laptops, can reduce sleep quality.

These factors can become so stressful that you hit burnout.

More than just being tired and unmotivated, burnout is constant fatigue paired with a sense of cynicism, detachment from work, and a lack of accomplishment.

Here are a few suggestions:

Find when are you at your most productive and then work to those hours.

Once you determine your body’s natural circadian rhythm, you can learn to work during the hours when you’re most alert.

Simply put, this means scheduling deep, focused work when your energy levels are naturally higher.

Manage your motivation.

Motivation is a fickle thing. If you wait for it to appear, you’ll find yourself waiting forever.

Instead, you need to engineer your workspace and your brain to self-motivate.

Start by changing your workspace to reduce clutter and make it more action-oriented.

Clutter provides distraction and tends to make us unmotivated.

If you are procrastinating on a project, limit yourself to spending five minutes on it.

Sometimes this is enough to finish the whole task anyway.

Finally, create rituals and routines that signal to your brain that it’s time to start something new.

Your brain loves repetition, so if you spend five minutes cleaning your desk before it’s time to start work you are training your brain to expect this activity before you begin something more mentally strenuous.

Take more breaks during the day.

If you’re tired at work, take a break.

This could include a power nap — just 15 to 20 minutes can boost your alertness and improve performance.

Taking breaks during the day isn’t just good for your productivity or combating fatigue — it’s instinctual.

Sleep researcher, Nathaniel Kleitman found that the human body follows a rest-activity cycle every 90 to 120 minutes.

At night, that cycle takes you through the different stages of sleep.

During the day, it manages your energy and alertness levels.

What this means is that your body craves a break to rest and recover after about 90 minutes of work.

Once you understand this rhythm, you can use it to your advantage by scheduling your breaks so you are resting and recovering when your body needs it most.

Put clear boundaries around your work time.

Work-life balance is crucial for fighting work fatigue.

Yet few people set proper limits to their working day, instead allowing phones and email to seep into personal time and never fully disconnecting from work.

On the other hand leisure time, especially spent on hobbies and meaningful tasks, helps you become more creative and focused.

Develop a meditation routine.

Some studies have shown that activities such as meditation and yoga can help decrease the stress and anxiety that lead to work fatigue.

A regular schedule, either in the morning or before bedtime, can have long-term effects.

Yoga practitioners report 86 per cent more mental clarity compared with their non-practicing counterparts.

Fix your sleep schedule.

Create a sleep schedule that’s attuned to your circadian rhythm.

Be sure to take regular breaks and focus on yourself — even if it’s just 30 minutes.

Try to incorporate exercise and meditation into your daily routine, which can naturally boost energy and increase positivity.

Doing these things should help you feel more rested and better able to tackle whatever your day throws at you.


*Paul Lyons is an experienced business leader, adviser and coach. He can be contacted at [email protected]

This article first appeared on the Mental Toughness blogsite.