Workplace fatigue and exhaustion have been significant issues for decades, way before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. According to Gallup, 85% of employees report being disengaged or actively disengaged at work, which results in nearly $7 trillion of lost productivity on an annual basis. $7 trillion is lost every year because employees are distracted, disengaged, fatigued, exhausted at work, and essentially prioritizing other tasks to get done while on the company’s clock.
Many Employees Are Becoming Exhausted at Work
How did we get here? A study done by Kronos Incorporated and Future Workplace uncovered some alarming news. According to their study, 95% of HR leaders stated that employee burnout was sabotaging workforce retention. From the sounds of it, this is a problem for the majority, not just the minority.
Business leaders worldwide are coming to grips with this because these problems aren’t going away anytime soon. These issues have been further projected into the spotlight because of the unprecedented events 2020 placed on our current workforce. Left to their own devices, people are creatures of habit.
At some point in your life, I’m sure you struggled with brushing your teeth and taking a shower in the morning. Hopefully, your parents helped you work through those stages to allow you the time to lay down foundational habits of personal hygiene, which have become automatic at this point in your life. Because of this, I suspect you have no issues brushing your teeth and showering in the morning before getting ready for a workday.
But when was the last time someone gave you instructions and exercises to facilitate your workplace habits of productivity and execution of tasks? Have you ever had anyone give you guidance on this? Most haven’t.
While this appears to be a significant issue in our current workforce, there are viable solutions out there to treat this work-related pandemic as long as you are willing to change your habits and implement simple changes into your daily work life. Even if you decide to implement one of these changes, you could see a significant shift in your productivity and output, potentially setting you up for that next promotion, increased pay, and a higher quality of life.
Unfulfilling Work Can Suck the Life Out of You
The first question you may need to ask yourself is, “Am I doing what I truly love?”
Unfortunately, that question can only be answered by you, but it’s one of the most simplistic and foundational questions you need to figure out before taking the next step and investing in your future.
A majority of people are unhappy with their jobs, as Gallup found that nearly 70% of correspondents stated that they were unfulfilled and dissatisfied with their current place of work. If you find yourself part of this trend, maybe it’s time for you to look for a new job?
HR Drive conducted a survey and found that half of their respondents stated that they would sacrifice up to 29% of their current pay to work at a job they enjoyed, which clarifies that people are willing to surrender financial gains for personal growth and gratification. If we spend an average of 90,000 hours at work throughout our lifetimes, we need to make sure that we enjoy it and find fulfillment in what we do.
Fatigue Can Signal Poor Health and Nutritional Deficiencies
If switching your career isn’t an option, there are many alternatives to choose from to optimize your energy levels even when you’re exhausted at work. While our workforce and office landscape has completely changed with the stay-at-home orders from COVID-19, we can still implement simple steps to enhance our productivity.
Exhaustion at work isn’t always because of the work itself. It could also be due to poor health and nutritional deficiencies, manifesting as altered cognitive function, poor sleep, and an inability to complete tasks on time. Work merely brings out these inefficiencies and causes further strain on our brains and bodies, which may not have been able to keep up with these demands in the first place.
Nutrition and diet will forever be foundational to our health. Even Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, stated back in 440 BC, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Food is the keystone to our overall health and wellbeing—for a good reason. Your food choices influence your immune function via the bacteria living inside your gut, which contains roughly 70% of your body’s immune system.
Yes, you read that correctly. Your food choices directly affect your immune function!
More importantly, your food choices also affect serotonin production, the feel-good neurotransmitter that becomes skewed in conditions such as depression, anxiety, and different psychiatric disorders. Over 90% of your body’s serotonin production is housed within the gut and influenced by food choices affecting your bacterial profile.
Snacking on healthy foods throughout the day is always an option, but too much food can sway your blood sugar levels and cause daytime sleepiness.
For an even more efficient way to optimize your brain and body, intermittent fasting may be a better approach because it can help you dampen body inflammation, optimize cognitive processing, and even lose weight. Changing your food choices can directly correlate to changes in your mood and energy levels.
Take a Walk to Recharge Your Batteries
At some point, you may become exhausted at work and may need to step away from it to clear your mind. Taking a break from your work can be one of the most efficient means of improving your productivity because it allows the brain to switch gears and change your state of thought. One of the most efficient ways to do this is through physical exercise.
Movement is “the language of the brain,” as Anat Baniel states, and this statement is heavily supported by peer-reviewed literature and evidence-based articles. Exercise can directly influence brain activity through multiple mechanisms, such as increased oxygenation, enhanced gene expression, decreased stress responses, improved processing via the frontal lobe (The CEO of the brain), and optimized blood flow throughout the brain and body.
We also have data showing that different exercise forms can yield different cognitive-based outcomes, specifically relating low-intensity exercise to improved cognitive processing and attention. High-intensity exercise can also play a critical role in optimizing connectivity between networks responsible for affective and emotional processes. The choice is yours to make.
Exercise isn’t just important for the body; it’s also important for the mind. It can improve your ability to learn and remember information, specifically, because physical movement increases the production of a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which is responsible for facilitating long-term changes in neural networks and optimizing connections throughout the nervous system.
A 10-minute walk could be the best way to supercharge your productivity and take a much-needed break from your work. Try it out for yourself and see how you feel!
Find Time to Take a Cat Nap
There’s a reason you sleep a third of your life away: It’s vital for high performance and optimal brain function. And while taking a quick nap when you’re exhausted at work may seem counterintuitive for productivity and hitting work goals, the science backs it up.
Sleep disruption can cause significant cognitive and emotional problems, leading to fatigue, brain fog, and altered mental processing. It’s no longer viewed as an option as research shows how important it is for the formation and consolidation of memories, further enhancing our brain’s abilities to learn and create new ways of thinking.
The importance of getting enough sleep at night is rarely disputed, yet taking a quick nap in the afternoon or mid-day could also prove highly beneficial, especially before a big meeting or after studying material for some time. And since 53% of adults nap regularly, there’s a near 50/50 chance you’re in the camp of viewing afternoon naps as a waste of time.
Short bouts of sleep (around 10 minutes) have been experimentally shown to improve alertness and cognitive performance, lasting for up to an hour following a nap. Once again, taking 10 minutes away from your day to focus on optimizing your brain and body could yield significant dividends down the road towards productivity and success in the office.
Putting It All Together
Effective workers don’t work consistently for 8 hours and clock out at the end of the day. Being efficient doesn’t always mean being consistent, so we need to understand how work takes its toll on the brain and body. Most people possess the ability to put in an 8 hours workday in 5-6 hours, especially when you consider that the average worker only works for 2 hours and 23 minutes out of their 8-hour workday.
Yes, once again, you read that correctly! The rest of their day is used to search the internet, read articles, look for other jobs, and do whatever else workers can get away with while their bosses aren’t looking.
So, if you’re interested in putting in an entire day of work, use your brain and body to your advantage by creating effective daily habits of success. Using science can vastly improve our outcomes and potentially get us an edge to increasing our future earning power while also avoiding getting unnecessarily exhausted at work.
As always, it will be up to you to make it happen.
“You can have results or excuses. Not both.” —Arnold Schwarzenegger
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Featured photo credit: Joyce Romero via unsplash.com