Exhausted at Work...the New Workplace Epidemic?

March 10, 2016

Toronto, ON – It’s time for a wake-up call: More than three-quarters of Canadian workers say they work while tired, with one-third saying they do so very often, according to a new survey by staffing firm Accountemps. The costs of working tired – both for professionals and the businesses they work for – are high: Respondents cite lack of focus or being easily distracted (50 per cent), procrastinating more (44 per cent), being grumpy (36 per cent) and making more mistakes (26 per cent) among the consequences.

While work may be only one of many factors affecting staff energy levels, an exhausted worker has a direct impact on office productivity. “Managers should take the time to recognize signs of employee fatigue, and work to identify contributing factors that can be controlled and mitigated within the workplace,” said Dianne Hunnam-Jones, Canadian president of Accountemps.

“Keeping employees alert and refreshed does not need to be costly or time-consuming,” added Hunnam-Jones. “Getting to the root of the problem through an open conversation around activity and engagement levels can lead to feasible solutions, such as assisting with workloads by bringing on temporary staff, offering flexible work schedules to ease commute times, or shuffling priorities for less demanding timelines.”

Failing to take action can lead to big problems. Burnout, turnover and a negative corporate culture can result from a consistently tired workforce, along with lost sales and productivity.

Highlights from the Accountemps survey:

  • Younger workers might be burning the midnight oil. Eighty-five per cent of professionals between the ages of 18 and 34 admitted to being sleepy at work often, compared to 75 per cent of workers age 35 to 54 and only 57 per cent of respondents age 55 and older. Slightly more women (80 per cent) than men (72 per cent) said they often work while tired.
  • Forty-two per cent of workers said they would use a nap room if their employer offered one. Two per cent said their employer already provides a nap room and they take advantage of it.
  • Thirty-nine per cent of workers who said they would not take advantage of a nap room cited the following reasons: It might make them sleepier (40 per cent), they worry about not getting their work done (33 per cent), and they don’t want to be perceived as a slacker (24 per cent).

Professionals admitted to – or heard of others – making the following mistakes due to being tired on the job:

  • Entered the wrong calculation and cost the company time and thousands of dollars
  • Incorrectly calculated an invoice and undercharged the client
  • Sent the wrong confidential financial statements to a client
  • Payed the wrong vendors
  • Mistakes on an order entry that caused entire shipments to be mistakenly produced, costing thousands of dollars
  • Misread a product quote, which was $700 more than expected
  • Wrote incorrect dimensions for the leasing of a space, and undercharged the renter for an entire year


Accountemps offers managers the following tips for maintaining a well-rested staff:

  1. Manage workloads. Meet with employees regularly to evaluate what’s on their plate and set priorities and realistic expectations based on business needs. If there’s too much work to go around, consider bringing in temporary help to keep projects moving forward while relieving the burden on full-time staff.
  2. Encourage employees to take breaks. Some professionals might choose to forgo breaks to get their work done. But remind staff that a tired employee isn’t an effective or productive one – they need an occasional time out to recharge.
  3. Consider making meaningful changes. Implementing flexible schedules and telecommuting options or providing rest areas in the building can make a big difference for workers.
  4. Lead by example. As a manager, employees take their cues from you, so set a good example. Take sporadic breaks, get away from your desk and work normal business hours. Your staff will likely follow suit.

About the Research
The survey was conducted by an independent research firm. It includes responses from more than 300 Canadian workers 18 years or older and employed in office environments.

About Accountemps
Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. The staffing firm has more than 340 offices worldwide. More resources, including online job search services, can be found at accountemps.ca. Follow the Accountemps blog and @RobertHalf_CAN on Twitter for additional workplace news and hiring trends.