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Thursday, April 20, 2017

We spend the majority of our day at work, but if most of that time is spent feeling tired and fatigued, are you really being productive? Pearl Mathias tells you how to deal with office fatigue

It doesn’t matter if you go to bed early and wake up late, or even if you pack in the required eight hours of sleep every night; if you’re like us, you’re bound to doze off after lunch time. Don’t worry; your laziness isn’t the only culprit in this case. Your body clock prompts a slight drop in your core temperature around eight hours after you wake up, and although this may vary slightly, there’s no escaping the desire to just lay your head down and catch a few z’s when no one’s looking. But, apart from this, there’s a lot that you do through the morning that can lead to you feeling drowsy by late afternoon. Either way, office fatigue isn’t the best feeling, so here’s what you should know about it in order to tackle it.

RECOGNISING FATIGUE
Fatigue is a state of extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness. It can result from insufficient sleep, and repetitive or boring tasks only intensify this feeling. Fatigue can further be classified into two types:

Acute fatigue: It takes place due to short-term loss of sleep or exerting yourself physically or mentally for a short period of time. This can be easily overcome by getting adequate sleep and relaxation.

Chronic fatigue: It takes place if you’re constantly in a state of tiredness and are unable to overcome it by simply resting. If not dealt with properly, this can last for as long as six months and it may interfere with your daily activities.

GETTING TO THE ROOT OF IT
Fatigue can result from various factors, but the most common work-related factors include working for extensive periods of time, inadequate breaks between work, insufficient sleep and work-related stress.

Workload worry: As the day progresses, it’s natural for your body to tire and need some rest. However, since our hectic schedules don’t permit this very often, we find ourselves battling against our body clock. No matter how long your work shift or how important the task, if you’re working when your body should be resting or sleeping, it will result in fatigue.

Health check: If you’re not at your healthiest, you will be more susceptible to office fatigue. Conditions such as vitamin deficiency, arthritis, thyroid, heart problems and diabetes require medication that may result in fatigue. Sleep problems such as sleep apnea or insomnia may make you feel as though you haven’t had enough sleep, resulting in tiredness at the office. Even depression, anger or frustration (which may not necessarily be work-related) can result in burnout, affecting your energy levels. 

Environmental efficiency: A comfortable and healthy environment is essential for workplace productivity. If you’re sitting too close to an air vent or working in extreme cold or hot temperatures, it may result in drowsiness and inefficiency. Eye strain due to improper lighting or distractions caused by loud noises can also be a cause of fatigue.

TACKLING IT HEAD ON
If you relate to one or more of the symptoms of fatigue or have experienced the effects of fatigue during work hours, it’s time to address and tackle it. Here are a few simple things that you can do:

  • Avoid craning your head and neck forward during work hours and make sure that your arms are supported at all times. If not, it could result in neck and shoulder nags.
  • Don’t be a slouch potato as this puts pressure on your vertebrae. Move your chair as close to your desk as possible.
  • Avoid talking on the phone with the receiver jammed between your shoulder and ear.
  • Avoid eye strain by keeping your monitor at arm’s length. Rest your eyes periodically by looking at objects in the distance.
  • Avoid dangling your feet in the air when you’re seated. If your feet don’t comfortably reach the ground when you’re sitting, it can cause pressure on your thighs. Adjust your chair to a comfortable height or use a footrest to avoid this from happening.

WHEN THE CLOCK STRIKES THREE
There’s something about 3 o’clock and the dread isn’t reserved to scary movies alone! It’s the time of day that simply warrants a little slouching and drowsiness. But, instead of letting fatigue take over from this hour on, why not reserve some energy for the second half of your day? Here are some things you can do.

  • Avoid eating a heavy lunch. Instead, cut your noon meal in half and snack at around 11am and 3pm to avoid feeling famished or letting your energy levels drop. Instead of loading up on caffeine or energy drinks at the start of the day, limit yourself to one cup when you wake up and spread out the consumption through the day.
  • If you’re not already using a rubber ball for a chair, it’s important to remind yourself to get up and walk every hour. Although it may not be easy (it’s also slightly embarrassing) to perform desk exercises, simple steps such as drinking a good amount of water will allow nature to do its job. This will ensure that you step away from your desk even if it’s just to visit the washroom.
  • As you’re nearing the end of the day, the last thing you want is to think or talk about work. You’re also in no mood to tick off another task on your list and your colleagues don’t want to discuss any work-related matters either. This is a good time to walk around the office and keep up with what your co-workers are doing. However, don’t be nosey or interrupt them if they’re having a productive evening and you’re not. But, it’s a good time to catch up on other interesting topics such as politics, sports or even planning an after-work hangout.

Here are a few signs and symptoms of fatigue:

  • Sleepiness (especially if you can’t control feeling sleepy)
  • Tiredness resulting in irritability
  • Loss of appetite and digestive problems
  • Depression
  • Increased susceptibility to illness

FATIGUE AT THE WORKPLACE

When you’re feeling fatigued at home, it’s easy to withdraw yourself from work and rest for a short while. But, when at work, you can’t take a power nap whenever you want, which can result in inefficiency and a lack of productivity. Here are a few ways in which fatigue can be a menace at the workplace.

  • It reduces your ability to communicate properly.
  • It affects your decision-making abilities.
  • It reduces your level of attention and increases forgetfulness.
  • It increases your tendency to take risks.
  • It reduces your performance and increases the time you need to complete work tasks.
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