How to Survive at Work When You Haven't Slept

Published: Nov 07, 2016

 Workplace Issues       
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With many in the nation set for a late night on Tuesday as the election results come in, the only guaranteed outcome at this point seems to be that, come Wednesday, workers across the country will be feeling the effects of staying up too late second-guessing the electoral map. Throw in the after-effects of a couple of nerve-calming drinks (not to mention a couple more for celebration/commiseration purposes), and we could be looking at a post-election productivity slump of epic proportions, depending on how close this thing turns out to be.

Assuming that, like me, you're not going to heed any of the sensible advice floating around out there about just going to bed and finding out the result in the morning, here are a few tips to help you, and any other political junkies you know, to make it through the longest day of the electoral cycle.

Don't Take the Day Off

As tempting as it might seem to just switch off the alarm, shoot a quick email to HR and go back to sleep, do you really want to burn a precious vacation or personal day to catch up on sleep that was caused by your inexplicable need to hear Wolf Blitzer break down just one more swing state on a precinct-by-precinct basis?

Not only that, consider that, regardless of the outcome, not showing up for work will not reflect kindly upon you: if your side wins, your colleagues will assume you partied too hard in celebration. And if your guy or gal lost, not showing up will look like you're avoiding people; also not a good look. For the same reason, try to avoid working from home if it's not part of your regular routine: pulling a last-minute remote work day won't fool anyone.

Set yourself up for success

If you're going to be up half the night, you may as well use some of that time wisely. At a minimum, you should conquer as much of your morning routine as possible between announcements. This can include everything from picking your clothes to packing your lunch so that all you need to do is grab it and go in the morning. Also, if you're a coffee drinker, there's no time like election night to finally learn how the auto-start timer works: nothing will help the transition from "no way, I only closed my eyes 5 minutes ago" to "I guess I can make it through this" quite like the scent of a fresh pot of java.

Find kindred spirits

If there's one day where your colleagues will forgive you for seeming like you're off the pace, it’s the day after election day. And the reason is simple: many of them will have been up half the night as well. If you're having trouble identifying these people, there is a simple detection policy: ask (in as non-partisan way as possible). Something like: "did you stay up for the results last night?" should do the trick. Bonus tip: don’t attempt to use this as an opening to talk about the election itself, unless you’re 100% certain that it's not going to lead to an awkward or confrontational moment. Instead, take heed of the kind of things that candidates normally say in their final speeches and try to find common ground (like how there's not enough coffee in the world for days like this). This won't help to get your job done, but knowing that someone else is sharing the pain could make it easier to deal with.

 Schedule non-creative work for the day

Do you have a backlog of data processing, copy and pasting or other similarly mundane task to get through? Wednesday is the perfect day to do it. Put your headphones in, cue up something upbeat, and start grinding through your list. It might not make the day go by any faster, but at least you'll reduce the odds of making a poor decision related to fatigue, while achieving something tangible—and aiding your recovery by reducing the list of things that will keep you up at night in the process.

Take a walk

One of the best ways to get over any feelings of lethargy is to get moving. So don't just get to the office and hide at your desk all day: make a point of getting up and moving around. Your best option would be to do some kind of workout before work to get the blood and endorphins flowing, but if that's not possible, taking even a short walk outside at lunch could work wonders—especially if you can get to a park or an area with a few trees.

Sneak out early

Look, I'm not advocating heading home early on a regular basis. But if your productivity is suffering, face-time isn't going to fool anyone. You’d be far better off heading home, sleeping off the night before, and then making up the time and effort the following day.

Whether your candidate wins, loses or never had a hope in the first place (I'm looking at you, Vermin Supreme), a long-overdue recovery from the stresses of the campaign starts Wednesday. If nothing else, you can take solace in the fact that we won't have to worry about any of this stuff again for quite a while.