Mental fatigue has repeatedly been associated with decline in task performance in controlled situations, such as the lab, and in less controlled settings, such as the working environment. Given that a large number of factors can influence the course of mental fatigue, it is challenging to objectively and unobtrusively monitor mental fatigue on the work floor. We aimed to provide a proof of principle of a method to monitor mental fatigue in an uncontrolled office environment, and to study how typewriting dynamics change over different time-scales (i.e., time-on-task, time-of-day, day-of-week). To investigate this, typewriting performance of university employees was recorded for 6 consecutive weeks, allowing not only to examine performance speed, but also providing a natural setting to study error correction. We show that markers derived from typewriting are susceptible to changes in behavior related to mental fatigue. In the morning, workers first maintain typing speed during prolonged task performance, which resulted in an increased number of typing errors they had to correct. During the day, they seemed to readjust this strategy, reflected in a decline in both typing speed and accuracy. Additionally, we found that on Mondays and Fridays, workers adopted a strategy that favored typing speed, while on the other days of the week typing accuracy was higher. Although workers are allowed to take breaks, mental fatigue builds up during the day. Day-to-day patterns show no increase in mental fatigue over days, indicating that office workers are able to recover from work-related demands after a working day.
- Mental Fatigue/pathology
- Middle Aged
- Task Performance and Analysis
- Time Factors