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Is it acceptable to be too tired to work?

Posted: 15 October 2014

Raheem Sterling caused controversy last weekend, after informing England manager, Roy Hodgson, that he was too tired to play. But is this acceptable in your ‘place of work’?

The youngster’s comment has sparked a mixture of response. Some have come to Sterling’s defence, whilst others have been left outraged at the players lack of ‘work ethic’.

In his column for the Sun, Alan Shearer said: “Too tired! He is 19 – and it’s October. I genuinely have never heard something like that in my career … This will stick with Sterling for some time, believe me. The working man who is up at 6am and home at 8pm does not want to hear how tired a 19-year-old professional footballer is.”

Now whether we can compare a professional athlete to the ‘working man’ is of some debate. That said, and away from the professional world of sport, with full-time UK workers averaging over 40 hours a week, not many of us could deny at some point feeling tired even if of a mental rather than physical nature. However, it’s probably reasonable to assume that not many of us would ever profess our tiredness to our manager perhaps, conversely to Sterling, in fear that we’d get ‘put on the bench’ for some ‘recovery time’ indefinitely.

However, it’s probably reasonable to assume that not many of us would ever profess our tiredness to our manager perhaps, conversely to Sterling, in fear that we’d get ‘put on the bench’ for some ‘recovery time’ indefinitely. Indeed it would be interesting to see how many managers would accept an employees complaint of tiredness and offer them a timeout, beyond their usual leave entitlement.

But maybe they should, surely it’s all about improving productivity at a later date? What’s the cost of a short timeout, if the individual returns to be far more productive? Returning to football, fellow professionals seemed to share in this view with Rio Ferdinand claiming that suitable rest is key to managing performance, tweeting the hastag #FreshWhenItMattersMost. Of course the context of ‘when it matters most’ is worthy of a separate debate especially in the Sterling case.

Whilst it might be seen as a gamble to grant such a request, one must also consider the risk of lack of performance or even days sick due to managers neglecting the need of short respite. Whilst it’s important to note the distinction between tiredness and stress, the connection and ways to minimalise it in the workplace has been discussed further in this past blog post on the subject.

In the UK last year, 131 million days were lost due to sickness absences. More importantly perhaps, people who worked between 30.1 and 45 hours were 45% more likely to have time off work due to sickness than people who worked fewer than 16 hours.

Maybe Sterling was right to relay his ‘tiredness’ to his manager, and certainly that would have been the view of his club team. If a unplanned short break is to result in increased productivity and even potentially fewer days of absence (or injury), then this is something worthy of consideration for employers.

Why not tweet us your thoughts @RethinkRec.