“How many hours of sleep do you get each night?”
This is what I texted to my friend, Elena*. Elena, besides being one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, is in many ways the quintessential millennial that Baby Boomers love to wax on about in New York Times' op-eds. She’s in the middle of her generation’s age-range. She paid over six figures in student loans, with an additional five figures of mounting interest, to qualify for a job in Manhattan that pays on the higher end of five figures. She commutes an hour to work both ways on the subway where a 10-hour-a-day job awaits her; she knits; sees her family once a week; and she's navigating through this city’s gag gift known as dating in the Big Apple.
Elena’s sleeping patterns, according to the National Safety Council, is also like many Americans'. According to a 2017 report by said council, fatigue is a debilitating struggle suffered by more than 43% of workers. Beyond affecting work performance, fatigue can even lead to workplace injuries. In fact, the report estimated roughly 13% of workplace injuries could be attributed to fatigue.
So, what causes workplace fatigue? While there are many contributors, the three most common factors are: “sleep loss, time of day, and time on tasks.”
About 43% of employees do not get at least seven hours of sleep a day. The report also found that after 16 hours, fatigue grew to such heights that it was unlikely that the employee would be performing at the level the employer required.
Time of Day
Nearly 31% of employees have long commutes of 30 minutes or more, which decreases the time needed to recover from the work day. Ever wake up and feel like all you did the day before was work? That feeling stems from the fact there wasn’t a large enough gap between shifts.
Time on Tasks
In the survey, 81% of participants stated they have demanding jobs, which are “jobs that require sustained attention” and “are physically or cognitively demanding.” Reporters following a story for the 24/7 news cycle are ideal candidates for this description.
Other problematic habits baked into our American economic model that promote sleeplessness and fatigue are:
- Non-day shifts (17%),
- Long shifts (21%),
- Long weeks of working 50 or more hours (22% — clearly they didn’t survey enough entrepreneurs),
- High-risk hours involving working early in the morning, like at 3am, or starting late at night, like at 9pm (41%),
- Quick shift returns where employees do not have at least 12 hours to recover before their next shift (14%), and
- No rest breaks (10%).
Moonlighting (today’s vernacular: side hustles) were reported by 67% of participants as being the reason why they worked 50 or more hours a week, leading to fatigue.
After reviewing all that, the real question becomes: Are most jobs paying a high enough salary to cover basic living expenses, pay off debts, and have a little bit left over for savings and fun? Behind heavy eyelids, you and Elena can feel the answer.
Layla F. Tabatabaie, Esq. is a New York attorney, author, and digital marketer. Having done over six years of branding, fundraising, digital marketing, PR, and copywriting for VC-backed web apps, mobile apps, blockchain companies, and chatbots, she is always seeking the next challenge and opportunity. Layla is the author of the law chapter in the academic text Learning in Virtual Worlds (2016). She lives in her favorite metropolis, New York City.