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Decision Fatigue: What It Is and Why You Should Be Aware of It

The world of business is becoming more complex—and businesses are feeling the weight. Employees are being asked to take on more responsibilities than they originally signed up for, there are additional distractions in every workplace, and companies are now managing hybrid and remote workers. 

While many of us have adapted to higher levels of complexity in our everyday lives,  it’s important to remember that the human brain isn’t designed for the mental work overload that is now common in various industries. Throughout the day, we make dozens of decisions and choices—some large, others small—while trying to remain productive for the good of the business. Over time, decision fatigue can settle in—and the consequences may shock you. 

Decision fatigue can lead to lower productivity, burnout, and have an impact on the company’s overall output. Let’s discuss the reasons to be careful of this phenomenon and how you can address it in your workplace to ensure your employees and business are in top shape. 

What is decision fatigue? 

Whether we’re aware of it or not, every decision we make throughout the day requires a small cognitive effort to weigh up different factors and priorities, and make a choice based on the information at hand. There are decisions at the personal level, like what to wear and what to have for dinner, and there are work-related responsibilities to manage and take care of as well. Moreover, the pandemic has added an extra layer of protocols and how to work in the office to factor in.

In a work environment, fewer things get done on autopilot, and many of our decisions can be stressful as they often will have an impact on other colleagues and the business overall. In short, like any muscle that gets overworked, the brain can experience decision fatigue, which can lead also to physical fatigue.

The dangers of decision fatigue 

Lower productivity and more errors

The human brain needs time to relax and re-energize in order to perform at an optimal level. With workdays extending farther into the evenings and the line between work and home becoming blurred, many people aren’t getting the break they need. If work keeps impeding into your personal time, your directed attention centers are unable to get the uninterrupted rest required. This often leads to fatigue, lower productivity, and mistakes. 

The law of diminishing returns works everywhere, including the workplace. At some point, efforts become less effective—and persisting can cause more harm than good. The graph below explains in more detail: 


graphic on diminishing returns

Image Source

Poor focus and burnout

When you’re fatigued, it’s hard to stay on track. Tasks that seem essential may not move the needle forward. You may get caught up in reading emails, or repeatedly go over the same paragraph without comprehending it. Tired people are likely to avoid unpleasant tasks—even those that are necessary to their workflow. Time management and organization suffer. 

When your employees aren’t productive and their focus is poor, it should be a red flag that the current approach to work isn’t sustainable. Over time, it's not uncommon to see signs of some burnout among your team, consider strategies to address and reduce it.

How to reduce decision fatigue in the workplace:

Some stress is inevitable, but business owners and managers can help avoid the ups and downs of employee burnout and lost productivity using strategies to reduce decision fatigue. 

De-clutter your workplace 

Decluttering your workplace provides an organized environment that promotes efficiency, productivity, and creative thinking. Decluttering not only refers to the physical environment but should also include less tangible things such as processes and introducing best practices.

If you are considering restructuring your office as a result of a shift to more hybrid working, carefully consider what is and isn’t necessary. It’s also a good idea to engage employees and get feedback on ways to create a happy, healthy, and efficient workforce. 

Use workplace sign in software 

It may seem trivial but your current workplace sign in protocols could be contributing to decision fatigue in your business. For example, if your staff are still using badges and key cards to access the office (which can be lost) or signing in via inconvenient and insecure paper sign-in books.

You can streamline the process and help to reduce decision fatigue by investing in digital sign in software so your workplace management is more efficient. Employees and visitors can use a sign-in app or QR code to easily gain access to the workplace. workplace sign in software

Make sure everyone understands their role within the company 

In many companies, employees wear several hats. It might not seem problematic to ask employees to take on additional tasks, but it can cause additional stress and prevent them from completing more critical tasks.

Everyone in the company should have a clear understanding of their role, and be supported in these roles without extra, unrelated tasks that further contribute to decision fatigue. Automate repetitive tasks whenever possible to help staff better manage their work, with less stress in prioritizing what to do next. 

Women talking in an office

Tackling decision fatigue helps the long-term business success

Companies are becoming wiser in a fast-evolving business world. If they want to be successful, they have no choice. As we advance and industries become more competitive, businesses must think about psychological factors that can impact the workplace—such as decision fatigue. 

Implementing a workplace sign in solution helps to create a more efficient workplace. It also provides the tools to reduce complexity and create a productive environment while promoting mental health.

If you want to help tackle decision fatigue in your workplace, connect with our team at SwipedOn to book a demo. 

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Mia Campbell

Mia is our Product Marketing Lead at SwipedOn