The Psychology of Work Fatigue

Share this graphic on your site!

The Psychology of Work Fatigue

Do you feel fatigued and stressed after work?
43% of workers say their job negatively impacts their stress level

Why Is My Job Making Me So Tired?

Scientists don’t know exactly why working a desk job can make us feel fatigued

It might have something to do with motivation ― fatigue could serve as a signal that we need to start doing something else

Evolutionarily, this would make sense because we need to focus on multiple factors (safety, nutrition, etc) in order to survive

What is Fatigue?

Fatigue is a state of physical and mental exhaustion beyond tiredness ― including lack of motivation and low energy.

Are you experiencing fatigue from work?

  • Tiredness that lasts for days or weeks despite adequate sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating, confusion, and disorganization
  • Feelings of depression or anxiety

…Or are you just tired?

  • Typically resolves after a period of quality sleep
  • Usually happens within a day or two―not prolonged
  • Can be caused by excessive exercise

Situations that put workers most at risk for fatigue at work:
Night shift, rotating shifts, long hours or early morning start times

Healthcare providers, first responders, and service employees are among the most likely workers to experience fatigue

Americans are working more than ever before — we averaged 37.5 hours per week in 1976 vs 47.7 hours in 2017

Regardless of the biological reason, fatigue from work can cause real problems

Fatigue and the Stress It Creates

US adults who feel their job impacts their overall health negatively:

26% of workers in low-paying jobs
vs 14% in high-paying jobs

26% of retail employees
vs 13% of office employees

25% of people working 50+ hours a week
vs 7% of people working less than 30 hours

Stress and Its Effects on Adults in the US

Stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed and struggling to deal with life’s challenges

Feeling physically and emotionally unwell
34% report headaches from elevated stress
33% experience feeling nervous or anxious
32% feel depressed or sad

Unhealthy coping mechanisms
Around 50% have yelled or lost patience with their partner and/or children
46% say they are unable to calm their minds to sleep
Nearly 40% overeat or eat unhealthy foods as a result of stress

Lack of sleep
34% report experiencing stress-induced fatigue
Workers with fatigue have nearly a 2X higher risk of injury than workers without fatigue
About 13% of work injuries can be attributed to lack of sleep

Tips for Getting Your Energy Up

Having chronic fatigue and stress because of work may feel hopeless ー but there are ways to feel normal again

At-work strategies

  • Ensure that you are getting adequate break time ― in many states that amounts to a mandatory 30 minute break for every 4-8 hours worked
  • Check with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at to see if your state has specific rest time regulations
  • Look into working from home full- or part-time
  • Remote work could help improve work/life balance
  • Renegotiate hours or look for a new position to meet your needs
  • Talk to your boss about issues you have with your work situation to see if there’s anything they can do
  • If all else fails, take a day or two off to rest ― while the Fair Labor Standards Act does not guarantee sick or leave time, many companies will provide paid or unpaid leave

Focus on sleep

  • Get enough sleep and rest between physically or cognitively demanding activities
  • Adults need an average of 8 hours of sleep per night
  • Align your natural body clock with your work schedule
  • Use a natural solution like melatonin tablets to help regulate circadian cycles
  • If you work the night shift, try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule even on your days off
  • Try blackout curtains to block the sun if you sleep during the day
  • Sleep and hydration might be connected ― getting less than 8 hours of sleep can increase risks of dehydration, which can leave you even more tired

Take care of your body

  • Learn how to be mindful of the present moment to minimize racing thoughts
  • 73% of studies show meditation results in significant stress reduction
  • Stretch your muscles with yoga or walk during your break
  • Yoga practitioners are almost 10% more likely to report mental clarity than non-practitioners
  • Eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables per day
  • Eating healthy is shown to improve mood, energy, and self-esteem

Fatigue and stress can be symptoms of clinical depression or anxiety ― if you feel help is needed for those issues, please consult a doctor

Don’t let work fatigue and stress overwhelm you ー what will you do to take back your life?

The Psychology of Work Fatigue