Fatigue from work: the different causes

Fatigue from work: the different causes

Work fatigue is the manifestation of a state of exhaustion. It can have different origins, as well as different ways of manifesting itself and varying degrees of severity. We will analyze them in this article.

Fatigue from work: the different causes

Last update: May 28, 2020

Work fatigue takes many forms, some of which are not related only to the present moment. It is therefore important to know and understand the different manifestations of this state. Some of them can even be irreversible. The problem is that we are often so immersed in work that we neglect them.

Fatigue is defined as the temporary loss of the ability to do work, which occurs after that work has been performed for an extended period of time. In all forms of fatigue, there are organic, emotional and intellectual components.

Work fatigue involves various causes and levels of intensity. This has given rise to various classifications, both as a function of the area concerned and in relation to their origin. Such manifestations, therefore, can be addressed from multiple points of view. In the next lines we will see the most important.

"Illness makes health pleasant and good, hunger satiety, fatigue rest."

-Heraclitus of Ephesus-

Work fatigue: classification by cause

The origins of fatigue are among the most disparate. Sometimes it has a physical basis, as is the case with motor activities. Other times it originates from intellectual activities or activities that cause a certain degree of stress, etc. As for the causes of work fatigue, these can be classified as follows:

  • Physical fatigue. fatigue caused by excessive psychomotor effort is thus defined. It can occur due to excessive weight or movement, prolonged incorrect posture, pre-existing injuries, or incorrect execution of certain movements.
  • Mental fatigue. It is one of the manifestations of work fatigue that most often goes unnoticed. It originates in intellectual overload or in the excessive monotony of work. This type of fatigue often causes health problems.
  • Manual fatigue. It is caused by the performance of excessively mechanical tasks, performed without much variation and for a prolonged period. In this case there is a cognitive and sensory under-stimulation.
  • Sensory fatigue. It occurs as a result of the overstimulation of one or more senses. It is common in work done in front of a screen.
  • Nervous fatigue. It is related to automatic jobs which include many procedures.
  • Fatigue psychological. It is common in people who carry out jobs of great responsibility, in which quick and important decisions must be made. This is the case, for example, of doctors or air traffic controllers.
  • Cognitive fatigue. It manifests itself in jobs that require the management of a volume of data that exceeds the ability to process and assimilate them correctly.
  • Emotional fatigue. It is associated with jobs where the emotional demand is high. It mainly concerns teachers, nurses, etc. This type of work fatigue causes the dreaded burnout syndrome.

The intensity of work fatigue

The different manifestations can also be classified according to their intensity or the consequences they produce. This categorization is more technical, as it refers directly to the effects on health, both physical and mental.

From this perspective, there are two main types of work fatigue. The first is the physiological one, that is the normal fatigue that occurs after having performed prolonged efforts over time; it simply resolves with rest. The second is of a pathological type, for which energy recovery does not occur even with rest.

Pathological fatigue, in turn, has variations. These are:

  • Acute fatigue. It is a state of extreme fatigue produced by a physical, intellectual or emotional need greater than expected. It does not resolve with simple rest, but it takes more time to recover energy.
  • Fatigue chronic. It is the accumulated fatigue on which rest has practically no effect. In order for it to resolve, a sufficiently long rest period is required. The absence of rest can even lead to death.
  • Psychic fatigue. It is the most severe form of fatigue. It is a chronic fatigue in which important physical and mental symptoms appear. This type of fatigue is irreversible and makes the subject unable to work.


As you have seen, the manifestations of work fatigue are manifold. For this reason, it is essential to pay due attention to it. Fatigue is a signal from the body that should not be ignored. You will not become better workers by increasing your efforts beyond your means, and thereby putting your health at risk.

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