SURVEY SAYS: Working While Tired

We covered a survey in which early three-quarters (74%) of U.S. workers say they work while tired, with nearly one-third (31%) saying they do so very often.

Last week, I asked NewsDash readers if they ever work while tired, how often, and whether it led to mistakes or embarrassing moments. I also asked if they had any tips to share for reenergizing at work.

No big surprise, 100% of responding readers said they have worked while tired. For 13.9% of respondents this is a daily occurrence, while 38.9% indicated they work while tired a few times a week, and 22.2% said at least once a week. More than 19% reported working while tired a few times a month and 5.6% said less often than once a month.

More than 72% of responding readers indicated they have made a mistake or had an embarrassing moment due to working while tired, while 27.8% report they have not.

Some respondents shared examples of a mistake they or a coworker made or an embarrassing moment they or a coworker had due to working while tired. (Shared in the pages to follow)

Asked if they have any tips for reenergizing when tired at work, most of those responding suggested taking a walk or some kind of physical activity. Other suggestions included drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages, taking a short nap, getting more sleep at night, doing away with daylight savings time, “Pray for busy season to end!”, and “fear energizes quickly.”

In general comments about working while tired, most folks agreed that it is a natural result of more demands and hectic lives. One respondent said, “If anyone responds ‘no’ they never work while tired, they must be lying!” Daylight savings time is definitely a trigger for many to work while tired. Some reported why they have problems getting enough sleep. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said, “I’m 53 years old. I am always tired.”

Thanks to all who participated in the survey!

Examples of mistakes or embarrassing moments 

No more or less mistakes than when I'm awake and not fully paying attention.

Oh wow. Seeing numbers that weren't actually there or not seeing things that WERE there seems most common

Our plan only pays profit sharing for those employed at year end. I was tired will completing the spreadsheet and missed the step to remove those that were no longer employed at the end of the year.

In a previous life I was an auditor. We were working in a building with an elevator with mirrored walls. A co-worker walked straight into the elevator and pushed the reflection of the button of the floor we were working on. She didn't understand why the button didn't "light up" and kept pushing it. We put her out of her misery shortly thereafter.

Several years ago, I received over a FAX with conversion data, in size 6 font, with several line items per participant, that had to be manually added and no control totals by participant or by source. I had one participant who only had one line item and her money was transferred to the person above her on the list (about $50,000). Funny thing though, neither one of the participants said anything about it, and quarterly reports had gone out. The error was found on a later review and corrected. I believe that I was tired, and trying to read a fax with tiny numbers did not help!

I misread dates ALL the time either transposing or backdating even to prior years.

I keep nodding off. I try to go to sleep early but daylight savings time always messes with my sleep cycle. I will quit working tired in about 8 months when we fall back.

I have snorted myself awake at my desk a couple of times. If anyone heard/saw it, they have been kind enough to not mention it.

I don't think I've made a mistake while tired. The main effect is a decline in productivity because I have to work more slowly to avoid mistakes.

More mistakes and embarrassing moments 

I've dozed off in a meeting briefly. No actual mistakes due to fatigue, rather, less efficient and not hitting on all cylinders mentally.

Once, I made a whopper of an error in transmitting the 401k contribution and it took a week to fix. The internal audit dept finally got their 'roast'.

I rushed through an email response without reading the whole email and ended up putting my foot in my mouth.

I had heavy eyes during the regulatory discussion given by a compliance consultant. (Even with coffee) No matter how hard I tried, my eyes kept closing. Compliance consultants generally are not the type to make their presentations "snooze proof."

Usually it is falling asleep briefly during a meeting, or not hearing a question while dozing or spacing out.

I deleted a file that took me three days to reproduce. What a nightmare!

There is one person in the office who likes to talk and when I'm very tired, I can't stop myself from yawning - quite noticeably and repeatedly.

usually a typo in what I am writing such as putting the wrong year in a cover letter. My most embarrassing moment was referring to a client on a conference call by the wrong name repeatedly, while being corrected repeatedly.... by my manager and the client.

I was watching a webinar at work and dropped off to sleep. Luckily I got a phone call that woke me up before anyone caught me.

No mistakes that I'm aware of, but I'm definitely not as productive. Also, it is embarrassing to be yawning or to feel that it's obvious to others that I'm fighting to keep my eyes open.

I used to nod off.

Generally speaking it will be asking a question on a request that I already knew the answer. Being tired one just does not think clearly or have the focus.


Kids, spouse, dogs, work, continuing education, volunteering, house chores, trying to find time for exercising... there's not a lot of time leftover for sleep.

I'd love to live in a world where balance actually allowed workers to have time to rest - for now, that's simply not possible given commute time and life demands in addition to work.

Unfortunately I work tired more often than not and by the grace of God haven't screwed up royally - yet. I've told my boss that while I don't make many mistakes, this means that when I do it'll probably be a BIG one!

I might be less tired if I did not spend a few hours working at home every night.

I think we should start a campaign to bring back nap time. Or have company provided nap pods to escape for a power nap.

This is a great question for the week Daylights savings time started. Everyone is working tired, grumpy, and making mistakes this week. We all have to hang in there for about two weeks before it gets better. I sure could use some medicinal chocolate to perk me up.

I think it is common now, for those that are juggling work, raising a family and caring for elderly parents.

I think more people than not work while tired. It just seems that the world moves so fast that I am always scrambling to keep up. My brain apparently does this at night instead of sleeping.

I'm 53 years old. I am always tired.

There's too much emphasis in the US on "face time" in the office and misplaced admiration for the "warriors" who can "get by" on 3-4 hours of sleep per night.

We all lead such busy lives, I expect most people are routinely tired during the day.

I think it's pretty prevalent, given work load, family demands, attempts to have a life outside of work.

Verbatim (cont.) 

Daylight savings time is a large contributor. It generally takes me two weeks to recover for the lost hour...not to mention the confused look from my dog as I wake him at "4am" to go for his morning walk.

I look at it this way; in nine months I'll be able to take a snooze anytime I want.

Does it count when you finally get to bed and you relive your day in your dreams?

We spend time in our team to talk about being tired, and not getting enough sleep. We work odd hours due to being in global positions, so encourage naps during down time.

If you're tired go take a nap. You'll be glad you did.

Yes, I should go to bed earlier - and I do. But the bigger issue is waking at 3:00am and not being able to get back to sleep. I sleep very late on Saturday to make up, but that kills a good part of that day - not necessarily the best trade.

Figure out who is the tired co-worker in your office and have a full day of fun harassing them till they break!

Working while tired is a natural result of the 24/7 world that we live in.

I am often tired at work because my circadian rhythms and the business day do not match.

If anyone responds "no" they never work while tired, they must be lying!

I worked with a guy who had a headache, closed his eyes and got written for sleeping even though he really wasn't. We worked at a hospital in an office. So much for being worried about a migraine. Right, same place when I was not allowed to leave work to take my own child to the Dr., how odd! Moral of the story, do not even close your eyes!!!!!!

It is far from healthy but the demands of the job are as such it is almost impossible to not be tired more times that we want or should be.


NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.