If you usually work an office job, do you ask yourself, “Why am I so tired in the afternoon?” Have you wondered why you’re tired between 2-3 pm? Some workers may get extremely tired in the afternoon while on the job. The consequences of working less effectively can result in the loss of productive working hours for employees. It might explain why workers work longer hours and stay later at the office. If you’re familiar with this topic, you’ve likely experienced what many refer to as the afternoon crash.
Why am I so tired in the afternoon: Decision fatigue
The afternoon crash has been a common issue in the workplace over the years. In psychological terms, there are many factors to consider while working during the afternoon. Some people will experience decision fatigue when your brain gets tired and unable to take on complex tasks. After working so many hours without a break, your mind gets bored and becomes harder to make complex decisions. The longer your work during that time frame, the more challenging it becomes to make complex decisions.
Workplace Survey: How employees handled their workday
To examine worker activities, Paychex came out with a survey earlier this year to address the so-called afternoon crash. In the study of 1000 employees, Paychex looked into worker insights, how responsive workers were in meetings, and approaches to fighting the afternoon crash. Here are some of the significant findings from the survey:
- Employees were more likely to be productive between 8 am-2 pm. They were less productive between 2 pm-5 pm.
- Employees were more likely to work on complex tasks between 8 am-noon. On the other hand, they were expected to do simple tasks between 2 pm-5 pm.
- 71% of workers scheduled their workday around their most productive hours. This approach helped them figure out which hours worked the best for them (in this study, it was during the morning hours).
- 37.8% of respondents said they attended meetings during the morning (before noon).
- Respondents who took part in meetings midday (between noon-2 pm) were more likely to be active participants than at other times of the day
Why am I so tired in the afternoon: The crash & tips to conquering “the dip” period
In the same survey, around 81% of respondents reported feeling the afternoon crash during their workday. On the same note, the respondents experienced the afternoon crash on average, 3.2 days per week (which is more than half of a standard workweek).
There is no doubt that the afternoon crash is an issue in the workplace. Fortunately, there are ways to tackle “the dip” during the afternoon hours. If peak performance tends to decline between 2 pm-5 pm, these are the hours' workers need to be proactive to avoid losing out valuable time. The following tips can help prevent fatigue and make the most out of your less productive hours of the day:
1.) Engaging in therapeutic activities
2.) Taking power naps
3.) Participating in simple tasks during non-peak hours
4.) Working smarter, instead of working longer
Engage in therapeutic activities
Similar to your body as a whole, your mind needs to rest properly. One of the best ways to fight decision fatigue and the afternoon crash is restorative rest. By this term, you are engaging in activities that calm and refresh the mind. After working for long periods, the brain needs short breaks throughout the day. Simple activities such as stretching, moving away from your workstation, or brisk walks can be very beneficial. On the other hand, exercises, including deep breathing, yoga, and meditation, can help clear your mind as well.
Restorative rest activities I take part in
Over the last year, I’ve taken advantage of activities to clear my mind some days. I regularly get up and stretch my body, especially after sitting for more than an hour. At this point, taking part in meditation has become a regular part of my daily routine. I usually do one-two 15-minute sessions a day to relax my mind. It’s great to weed out distractions and worries out of my head during times I need to stay focused.
Taking power naps over caffeine
Power naps can be a great booster during the afternoon hours. As the Paychex survey found, most respondents drank caffeinated beverages later on in the workday. While that may help sometimes, it can affect your sleep schedule if you drink caffeine before bedtime. So power naps (whether it’s 20-30 minutes) can help lower stress levels, along with refreshing your mind to get through the final hours of your workday.
More companies encouraging their employees to take power naps
In recent years, some companies have encouraged their employees to take power naps while on break. These companies may have noticed the payoffs that come with it, including higher alert levels, fewer errors, and increased productivity. Some companies, including Thrive Global (not too long ago), provided rooms with specially designed chairs (aka nap pods for snoozing). Though it may sound off, it’s an excellent way to be creative and think outside the box. But if it helps boost workplace productivity, it should be considered a win for employers and employees.
Participate in simple tasks during non-peak hours
As the Paychex survey indicated, most of the respondents were likely to tackle complex tasks during their peak hours. If it’s during the morning hours, they utilized that time to get the most challenging work out of the way. While during the afternoon (non-peak hours), they were more likely to take on more manageable tasks.
So if you happen to fall in this group of respondents, use the afternoon hours to work on tasks that don’t require deep thoughts or complex decisions. If you find yourself to be in the opposite group, do more challenging work during the afternoon/evening hours. Not everyone’s peak time takes place during the morning hours. So if you’re not a morning person, hold off your difficult tasks until later in the day, when you’re in the middle of your peak hours.
How I manage tasks during my non-peak hours
My peak period falls between a late morning-mid afternoon (10 am-3 pm). So many functions that are quick check off are done after 3 pm on a regular workday. If it’s necessary administrative work or repetitive tasks, I’m better doing them between the hours of 3 pm-10 pm (the latest time I may end up working until). Checking email is something I stay off-limits throughout the day. Usually, I’ll check email for no more than 30 minutes toward the end of my day. My schedule may not be ideal for everybody, so it’s essential to understand what are the best times to take charge of your priorities.
Work smarter, not longer
How you use your mind can determine how productive you become at work. Practicing mindful working can help differentiate between “working smarter versus working longer,” as some people would say. We need to focus on the present rather than the past or worry about the future. When workers take that into perspective, the better chances of increasing job performance, productivity, and work satisfaction.
A mindful approach to working smarter now more common
There are benefits to taking a mindful approach to work. Some of them include higher self-awareness, better health, and higher payoffs for employees and the workplace. Even some major companies (such as Apple, Google, and Yahoo) have integrated mindful approaches to training employees. By taking these approaches, companies can come up with better ways to handle stress and boost productivity.
The afternoon crash is not a new phenomenon. It’s been a workplace issue that people have struggled with most days, but can be managed better. Taking part in simple activities such as power naps or restorative rest can benefit personally and professionally. Also, identifying your peak time of the day can help determine when you should work on your most demanding tasks.
If you feel more tired in the afternoon, utilize those hours to work on more straightforward tasks. Finally, if you can master how to work smarter than working longer, you’ll be more productive and less likely to feel a dip during the afternoon. These are essential tips to help you beat the afternoon crash at work.
Have you struggled with the afternoon crash? If so, how have you handled the fatigue in the afternoon? Have you used any of the suggestions mentioned earlier?
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Eric is a time management consultant and owner of the blog, quitkillingtime.com. He takes great pride in helping people manage their time, personally and professionally. Eric is a firm believer in time freedom, as he believes in taking ownership of time. “Time is your most important asset. It can be your best friend or worst enemy. How you use your time can shape the future you desire to have.” In his leisure time, Eric loves to write and read whenever possible. He likes to go for long walks out in nature and been taking Zumba classes every week at his local gym. You can follow Eric via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.