Why Desk Jobs Can Be So Exhausting
Thu, April 22, 2021

Why Desk Jobs Can Be So Exhausting

Work is a reality that most adults have to deal with. While it can be exciting and fun to work and earn money, it could be really tiring as well. The tiredness that employees usually feel at work has different factors, which could be addressed. However, when someone is working in a toxic environment and dealing with arrogant bosses, their chances of being mentally drained are particularly high.

The World Health Organization reported that about 264 million people suffer from depression across the world. One of the main factors is work, which can heavily impact a person’s life. Work-related risks that have been identified include inadequate health and safety policies; poor communication and management practices; limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work; low levels of support for employees; inflexible working hours, and unclear tasks or organizational objectives.

At the same time, some employees simply don’t enjoy their jobs because their tasks are not suitable for their competencies. Some jobs carry a higher personal risk than others, affecting their mental health. Since most employees rely on their jobs to sustain their family and personal needs, they often attend work even if they are feeling sick. A recent report by consultancy firm Deloitte and mental health charity Mind revealed that there has been an increase of “presenteeism,” or people going to work despite not feeling up to it.

The report showed that there has been a rise of presenteeism among employees in 2018 with 41.7%, which is significantly higher than the previous four years: 38% in 2017, 36.4% in 2016, 30.4% in 2015, and 29% in 2014. BBC News, an operational business division of the British Broadcasting Corporation responsible for the gathering and broadcasting of news and current affairs, reported that young people are the most vulnerable in the workplace. The report described poor mental health among them as an “epidemic” because they are more likely to use their holidays instead of taking days off work. 

However, most people think that employees who are office-based are lucky because they get to sit all day while doing their jobs. But, they don’t realize that desk jobs can be equally as exhausting as other jobs. Employees, whatever their tasks at the office, can also be mentally drained. 

Why Desk Jobs Are Tiring

People expect that desk jobs are a huge advantage for employees because you only need to do your tasks without putting in physical effort. One can sit all day in front of their laptops and computers and get their job done without hassle. Thus, some people tend to invalidate their tiredness or exhaustion because they do everything without going to one place or another or running around. 

However, medical professionals emphasized that mental fatigue is very much legitimate. They explained that the human body reacts to stress in many of the same ways regardless of whether the source is mental or physical. According to Vox, a liberal-leaning American news and opinion website owned by Vox Media, scientists identified two hypotheses explaining why desk jobs could be so exhausting. First, researchers believe that employees become less motivated to do their tasks because they tend to focus on things that are distracting. This tension potentially causes fatigue. To prove this, UK researchers conducted a study in 2019 where they tracked 100 nurses in the UK over two 12-hour shifts.

The findings showed that there was no correlation between the amount of physical work the nurses did and their feelings of fatigue. Instead, they found out that nurses who were least likely to feel fatigued from their work also felt the most in control of their work. These feelings may have boosted their motivation, which may have boosted their perception of having energy. They also discovered that their subjective sense of how demanding their job was of them did not correlate with fatigue either.

Michael Inzlicht, a University of Toronto psychologist who studies self-control, motivation, and fatigue, also studied this topic and monitored 159 students at McGill University in Canada for a week. The participants were repeatedly sent text message questions about what temptations, desires, and effortful self-control they were engaging in at the moment, and whether they felt drained. The researchers found out that temptations are the greatest factor that makes them less motivated to do work. 

“If you’re typing at work, and if you’re anything like me, you got a few browsers open, you got Twitter open. These lead us down these rabbit holes that lead to temptations,” he said. 

Another hypothesis is resource depletion, where employees draw on their willpower or self-control to get their jobs done. Thus, when our willpower gets used up, we get tired. Our mental energy is extremely important because, without it, we couldn’t function well. Also, our brains are relatively small compared to the rest of our body. "Your muscles normally aren’t sucking a lot of oxygen out of you. With exercise, they will. But the brain always takes a lot of your energy,” said Steven Feinsilver, the director of sleep medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Other Factors That Could Make Desk Jobs Tiring

According to Mother Nature Network, a website with news and information related to sustainability, health, lifestyle, technology, money, food, home, and family, another factor that could make desk jobs exhausting is stress, especially when you are dealing with deadlines and toxic bosses. This kind of stress can make anyone feel tired, which can affect their overall quality of life. Researchers suggest that for those who are looking for a long-term solution to this, they need to find less stressful jobs or find jobs that they will enjoy.

"In the long term, though, you need to find some aspects of work that are actually desirable. What can you spend some time on that might lead to an exciting outcome? If you can’t find anything, you ought to sit down with your supervisor and find at least one project that will bring you some joy to work on. There should be something that makes you want to work rather than stay in bed every day,” writer Ark Markman said.

Also, the lack of light and fresh air might heavily affect employees' motivation to work. This is because most buildings have no adequate sunlight or are full of indoor air pollution, bacteria, and mold. Even the environments in which we work can make us sick and cause feelings of fatigue.