The average person works 8 hours a day for 5 days a week. It is natural that with such a mode of functioning, there are occasional fluctuations in productivity. Most often, we deal with a drop in the afternoon (after lunch) – this phenomenon has even gained its name: “afternoon slump.”

Although it is normal and common, it can become problematic when it prevents us from performing assigned tasks (due to inability to focus, creativity, slowing down of activities, etc.). Today we’ll explain in detail what characterizes this phenomenon, when and why it affects employees, and then we’ll point out possible strategies to beat it or reduce its intensity.

What is the afternoon slump?

Afternoon slump, sometimes also called post-lunch-dip, is a common phenomenon that can affect workers regardless of age or occupation. Its main symptom is a decline in energy, alertness and mental concentration, which usually occurs in the afternoon (usually between 1 pm and 3 pm).

For some people, it can manifest as headaches and muscle aches, impaired vision, irritability or fatigue. Such a temporary period of reduced productivity is natural for humans (it occurs as part of the typical diurnal rhythm), but its occurrence (timing, severity, ailments, etc.) may vary due to individual factors such as:

  • eating habits (timing and quality of the last meal eaten, lack of hydration, etc.),
  • stress levels,
  • sleep quality,
  • lifestyle (e.g., each employee’s daily rhythm, i.e., times of getting up and going to bed, degree and frequency of physical activity),
  • type of tasks performed (tedious or monotonous tasks, lack of mental stimulation or a sedentary work mode can contribute to feelings of fatigue and reduce alertness).

Who is most vulnerable to an afternoon slump?

The exact timing and intensity of an afternoon slump in energy may vary from person to person, but we can identify some typical scenarios when this situation occurs and can be a significant setback for an employee.

We are particularly at risk of an afternoon slump if our lunch or dinner was rich in simple carbohydrates (the body focuses on processing the food, which can lead to a temporary drop in energy levels and cognitive function). People who struggle with insufficient or poor quality sleep at night are also more likely to experience a pronounced afternoon slump in form (as well as feelings of fatigue and lethargy during the day).

Consequences of afternoon slump for the company

Although the afternoon slump is a natural reaction of the human body, it is not without an impact on the work performed. Due to reduced concentration and productivity, one can expect such situations as longer deadlines for tasks, less creativity during scheduled meetings, and increased errors and mistakes (which can be both minor and very serious for the company, such as in the case of customer service), making wrong decisions, among others.

What’s more, dealing with an afternoon crisis regularly can lead to a decline in employee commitment and morale, and the frustration felt by employees can affect the dynamics of the entire team, and thus the atmosphere in the company.

How to beat the afternoon slump?

Every employer would like to see their personnel maintain a consistent level of productivity throughout the week. It’s impossible to achieve, but it is possible to help employees fight fatigue, and maintain proper energy levels and sufficient productivity throughout the day. How? Some effective strategies are outlined below.

  1. Ensure access to natural light
  2. Place employees’ desks close to windows to create a space where they constantly have access to natural light. After all, exposure to daylight helps regulate the daily rhythm and affects energy levels and mood.

  3. Organize healthy meals
  4. Provide employees with healthy food options (e.g., through company catering) that provide energy for longer periods. Encourage meals rich in fiber, protein and healthy fats, and avoid processed foods and high doses of sugar. Also, make sure you have constant access to drinking water and other hydrating beverages.

  5. Provide space for physical activity
  6. A ping-pong table, foosball, a stretching room or even the opportunity to take a short walk during working hours are all effective ways to get the blood flowing and increase oxygen supply to the brain. As a result, workers will feel less stressed and more focused on tasks.

  7. Allow breaks
  8. Encourage employees to take short breaks to relax and recuperate (breathing practices, meditation, yoga and others). Providing a quiet zone or small space in the office where employees can rest and recuperate their minds can help boost energy and concentration.

  9. Introduce flexibility in working conditions
  10. If possible, also consider introducing flexible work schedules that allow employees to adjust their working hours to their natural rhythms and preferences. Indeed, some employees may be more productive by working slightly earlier and later, avoiding the most critical period of the afternoon slump.

 Afternoon Slump

Afternoon slump – summary

As an employer, you will find these strategies to reduce the consequences of afternoon slump practical (though it is certainly easier to counter this phenomenon with office workers than with remote workers). Nonetheless, you must dutifully keep in mind that employees have different needs and preferences in this regard.

By having an ongoing dialogue with your team and checking regularly to see which activities are having the desired effect, you will be able to help employees overcome the afternoon slump in form. That’s how you’ll ensure an engaged and productive team – whether they’re just starting work or finishing it.

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Author: Caroline Becker

As a Project Manager, Caroline is an expert in finding new methods to design the best workflows and optimize processes. Her organizational skills and ability to work under time pressure make her the best person to turn complicated projects into reality.