The Many Faces of Work-Related Fatigue

The different faces of work-related fatigue are manifestations of exhaustion. They have different causes and different levels of seriousness, which we'll analyze in this article.
The Many Faces of Work-Related Fatigue

Last update: 27 May, 2020

Work-related fatigue comes in different packages. Some types have repercussions that last long after you leave the workplace, which is why it’s so important to know and understand how to identify them. Some are irreversible. Often, the issue is that you’re so immersed in work that you don’t even realize there’s a problem.

Fatigue is the temporary inability to do a job after carrying out the said job for a prolonged period of time. All different kinds of fatigue, including work-related fatigue, have physical, emotional, and intellectual components.

Work-related fatigue varies in intensity and symptoms, which is why it’s organized into different classifications. The classification is based on what area is affected, as well as the origin of the fatigue. As a result, you can approach the many faces of work-related fatigue from different points of view. Next, we’ll discuss the most important ones.

A guy with work-related fatigue at his desk.

Fatigue has many potential causes. Sometimes, physical work causes fatigue. Other times, mental tasks or high stress levels can be the triggers.

  • Physical fatigue. Fatigue caused by excess effort of the psychomotor system is called physical fatigue. It might stem from lifting too much weight, having continuous bad posture, preexisting injuries, or unhealthy movements.
  • Mental fatigue. This is a kind of work-related fatigue that often goes unnoticed. Intellectual overload or excessive monotony usually causes it. It often leads to health problems.
  • Manual fatigue. This kind of fatigue is triggered by doing excessively mechanical tasks over a long period of time. Manual fatigue involves cognitive and sensory under-stimulation.
  • Sensory fatigue. Sensory fatigue is when one of the senses is overstimulated. People who work in front of a screen all day often suffer from sensory fatigue.
  • Nervous fatigue. This type of fatigue is triggered by repeated automatic tasks.
  • Psychological fatigue. People with a lot of work responsibilities often suffer from psychological fatigue because they often have to make important decisions very quickly. Doctors and air-traffic controllers are good examples of these kinds of jobs.
  • Information fatigue. If your job involves managing a lot of data, you might experience information fatigue. The information you take in overwhelms your mental ability to process it all.
  • Emotional fatigue. Being a nurse, a teacher, or a counselor can be extremely emotionally demanding. This kind of fatigue can quickly lead to burnout if you don’t practice good self-care.

Varying intensities

You can also classify the different faces of work-related fatigue based on their intensity or consequences. This categorization is more technical, as it refers directly to the effects on physical and mental health.

From this point of view, there are two primary kinds of work-related fatigue. The first is physiological fatigue. This is the normal tiredness you feel after prolonged effort. To get rid of this kind of fatigue, all you have to do is rest. The second type is pathological fatigue, which doesn’t go away with rest.

A woman leaning up against a wall.

These are the variations of the pathological fatigue category:

  • Acute fatigue. This state of extreme fatigue originates after a greater-than-normal physical, intellectual, or emotional effort. Simple rest won’t help, as we mentioned above. Resolving acute fatigue requires a lot more time.
  • Chronic fatigue. This is fatigue that builds up over time. It requires deep and prolonged rest. If you don’t treat chronic fatigue, it can even lead to death.
  • Mental fatigue. This is the most serious kind of fatigue. It’s chronic fatigue with significant physical and mental symptoms. This kind of fatigue is irreversible and it handicaps the person from continuing to do their job.

In conclusion, there are many iterations of work-related fatigue, which is why it’s so important to understand the signs and symptoms. You feel exhausted and tired for a reason. Don’t ignore your symptoms! You need to understand that overworking yourself doesn’t make you a better employee. It only puts your health at risk.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Atalaya, M. (2001). El estrés laboral y su influencia en el trabajo. Industrial data, 4(2), 25-36.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.