Modern life is laced with contradictions. Connectivity allows us to work on-the-go, but it can blur the lines between “work” and “life.” A competitive marketplace can create job opportunities, but it can also make employees reluctant to leave the office.

The symptoms of being over-worked can manifest in several ways. One of them is through a phenomenon called “the afternoon crash,” which appears to be a common by-product of the 40+ hour workweek.

According to a new survey of 1,000 employees (51.5 per cent men and 48.5 per cent women) conducted by HR outsourcing company Paychex, 80 per cent reported energy drops in the afternoon, suggesting a substantial amount of productivity is lost to tiredness each day.

Other findings 

The afternoon crash eats up a lot of the week, with respondents being hit with one on an average of 3.2 days per week.

The most productive work window was between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., with approximately 71 per cent of respondents trying to schedule their workday within this frame. 

Mornings appear to be the most popular time to huddle, with 38 per cent saying most of their meetings are scheduled in the morning. Only 16.2 per cent said their meetings mostly place between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., while 17.2 per cent are usually asked to attend meetings in the afternoon.

Coping mechanisms

Respondents appear to be using a variety of methods to cope.

  • 57 per cent said they use caffeinated drinks to power through exhaustion.
  • 35 per cent said taking a break or changing their environment was an effective cure.
  • 29.6 per cent said stretching helps combat the crash.

There are some limitations to the survey. For starters, Paychex relied on self-reported data, which can be subject to over or under exaggerating as well as selective memory. Second, the survey doesn’t segment the population by age or race — findings which could be insightful, given that previous research suggests certain groups (like young millennial women with childcare responsibilities) are more likely to experience workplace stress and burnout.

Burnout on the rise

The “afternoon crash” is just one of many factors contributing to worker burnout, which appears to be on the rise.

A separate January survey of 20,088 workers in 15 countries suggests nearly eight in ten employees worldwide suffer from burnout. Meanwhile, 95 per cent of the HR professionals believe burnout is hurting their organization’s ability to retain workers.

“Employee burnout is costly,” reads an excerpt from the report.

“… Companies with moderate-to-severe burnout have a 376 [per cent] decrease in the odds of having highly engaged employees, 87 per cent decrease in likelihood to stay, 22 per cent decreased work output, and 41 per cent decrease in the perception of the employee experience.”

It’s also linked to health issues like high cholesterol, heart disease, and premature death.

See the full results of the Paychex survey here.