Tired Teams = Poor Productivity. How to Help Sleep-Deprived Employees


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Friday, December 18, 2020

Sleep is a vital aspect of overall health and wellbeing, so employers that want to look after their staff should be thinking about how much rest workers are getting.

Article 4 Minutes
Tired Teams = Poor Productivity. How to Help Sleep-Deprived Employees

January 3rd will mark Festival of Sleep Day, an annual event that encourages people to catch up on some rest and relaxation after the chaos and excitement of the Christmas holiday season.

As well as reminding individuals of the importance of a good night's sleep, the day provides an opportunity for businesses to reflect on the significance of this particular aspect of their employees' health and wellbeing.

Workers can't function and do their jobs properly if they aren't getting adequate rest, so every company has something to gain from focusing on this issue and helping their employees get the right amount of sleep.

The stats on sleep

According to the American Sleep Association:

  • The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night
  • 35% of adults report getting less than 7 hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period
  • 40% of 40-59 year-olds and 37% of 20-39 year-olds report short sleep duration
  • 50 to 70 million US adults have some form of sleep disorder

WorkScore found that 39% were sleeping for 6 hours or less a night. These individuals were typically more stressed, had less energy and worked more hours than people who were getting 7 to 9 hours' sleep every night.

Medically reviewed research has provided clear evidence of the connection between sleep and overall health, which links to the average person's ability to perform well at work. A good night's rest has been shown to contribute to:

  • Better productivity and concentration
  • More social and emotional intelligence
  • Lower risk of depression
  • A stronger immune system

Why HR needs to act

All businesses have a basic duty of care to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees. If you want to be a responsible employer that goes the extra mile to look after its people, you need to go further than just complying with basic health and safety regulations and ensuring workers can do their jobs without putting themselves at risk.

Making a special effort to find out how people are sleeping and providing support to help employees improve this aspect of their wellbeing could lead to a range of positive outcomes.

Your workforce will immediately benefit from whatever help you're able to give them, which could be anything from providing advice on good sleeping habits to identifying external resources that people will find useful. As well as being more rested and enjoying the various health advantages this brings, employees will feel happier at work because they know their employer is looking out for their welfare.

As a business, you can expect your efforts to generate welcome results including a more positive, engaged and productive workforce. Demonstrating a clear commitment to protecting staff wellbeing could also boost your efforts to build a strong employer brand.

Research has suggested that recent changes in how people work could make it more important than ever for businesses to take action on sleep. Remote working can provide benefits like flexibility and a better work/life balance, but it can also have disadvantages, including problems with sleeping.

Supporting sleep

What practical steps can you take to help your employees improve their sleep?

One of your first priorities should be basic awareness-raising and provision of information. Some people might not be aware of the vital connection between sleep and their overall physical and mental wellbeing, not to mention their ability to stay alert and function properly throughout the working day.

Therefore, it's important to give your staff access to as much useful information as possible, and to point them in the direction of external resources that could prove useful. That might include expert tips on sleep hygiene and guidance on the ideal environment for a restful night.

If you feel that simply providing resources and encouraging employees to educate themselves on this issue isn't enough, you might want to incorporate dedicated training on the importance of quality sleep into your wider health and wellbeing strategy. PwC is one well-known business that's taken this approach. Just make sure all the information and recommendations you give are evidence-based and you provide practical advice for people to take away with them.

Some employers - including Google - have gone to the lengths of providing nap rooms where staff can catch up on sleep during the working day.

Whatever approach you decide to take, you can start by recognizing the importance of sleep for every member of the workforce - from senior leaders to the newest recruits - and by showing your commitment to helping staff get the rest they need.

"There are simple steps that employers can take to improve an employee's quality of sleep. It has to start with having a conversation about it. While the dangers of sleep deprivation might seem alarming, we want to get across that it's never too late to change your habits and improve your health." - Justin Varney, national lead for adult health and wellbeing at Public Health England

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