Steps to fight workplace fatigue

Date Posted
Mike Rich

If fatigue sets in at work there are some steps we can take to battle back. They include mental stimulation, physical activity, temperature, sound, aroma and caffeine.

  • Mental Stimulation

The sympathetic nervous system is triggered by an interesting challenge at work, or anything else that is new, different, and/or interesting. However, if the job is boring or monotonous, alertness can easily fade. To maintain mental stimulation use word or mind games during difficult periods or talk.


  • Physical Activity

Physical activity stimulates blood flow to the brain and outer extremities. If you are feeling drowsy take a walk or stretch to stimulate your level of alertness. If you are performing a task where you can’t move around much, stretch in place or chew gum.


  • Temperature

Cooler temperatures enhance alertness. Work environment should be maintained slightly below 70 degrees Fahrenheit (i.e., 65-68 degrees F is ideal). Work area temperature should not be increased at night to compensate for circadian decrease in body temperature.  Rather than raising the thermostat, which will promote sleep, bring extra layers of clothing that can be put on or taken off to optimize personal comfort.


  • Sound

Sound can invigorate us or send us to sleep.   “White noise,” is hypnotic and sleep inducing. Conversely, irregular or variable sounds, such as a radio, conversation, or a honking horn, stimulate alertness.  Music is known as “pink noise” and is stimulating to the brain. Music with a beat, talk-radio programs, and social conversation are particularly helpful in maintaining alertness


  • Aroma

Smell is the most acute of our senses and has a powerful influence on our bodies and minds.  Peppermint and citrus scents provide the greatest alertness boosts.


  • Caffeine

When we are feeling tired the first thing we reach for is a cup of coffee. However, if you drink multiple cups of coffee throughout the day your body quickly builds up a tolerance to caffeine – the more regularly you use it, the more it will take to keep you alert when you really need help. You can also develop a dependence to caffeine. Many people develop withdrawal symptoms such as headaches when they try to go without. Remember that stimulants only hide or postpone the effects of fatigue. They do not replace the need for sleep.

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