You may be wondering what sleep has to do with workplace productivity. The answer is pretty much everything.
Chronic sleep deprivation negatively affects concentration, reaction time, decision making, and memory. People who are sleep deprived have trouble completing many tasks that require logical reasoning or complex thought. One study found that being sleep deprived is basically the same as being drunk.
Most businesses would never allow an employee to show up drunk. But they often allow, and even encourage, sleep-deprived individuals to come to work every single day.
Why lack of sleep is a business problem
You may think lack of sleep is a strictly personal issue, and you’re right to some extent. Your employees are definitely in charge of their own sleep habits. However, work is definitely a factor in how those sleep habits develop and/or change over time.
While you may only see your team working away during their scheduled shifts, what you might not realize is just how much work and work-related stress is also creeping into their off hours—and causing them to lose sleep.
A recent CareerBuilder study revealed some fascinating statistics about the relationship between sleep and work. Of the 3,200 workers surveyed:
- 61% reported that sleep deprivation affected their work in one or more ways
- 58% of respondents said they didn’t get enough sleep
- 44% admitted that just thinking about work kept them up at night
- Just 16% reported getting the doctor-recommended 8 hours of sleep per night
There are many work-related reasons why your employees may be finding it harder and harder to get enough sleep, including:
- Long commutes
- 24-hour accessibility
- Increasing workloads
- Extended hours/overtime
- Off-hour or rotating shifts
- Stressful work environments
- Unattainable performance metrics
These factors can result in stressful workdays and sleepless nights.
What employers can do to help
Much research has been done on how to combat or reduce fatigue, both in the immediate moment and over the long term, and there is lots of information online. But it all starts with being aware of the issue and educating your employees.
Communicate with your team about the importance of sleep and provide them with information on how they can help achieve it through regular exercise, relaxation rituals, and unplugging from work.
Then, if you really want to make a difference for your employees and your business, evaluate your current processes and look for ways to address some of the key stressors affecting your employees.
- Commute times Allow employees to adjust their schedules to avoid traffic delays. Consider telecommuting options.
- Constant accessibility Encourage employees to unplug when at home. Provide flexible paid time off.
- Overwhelming workloads Ask your team if they feel their tasks are manageable and achievable, then make adjustments.
- Prolonged hours/overtime Are those long shifts really necessary? Could you do some hiring?
- Shift work Provide ample break times. Consider offering napping and/or exercise rooms. Offer free coffee and tea onsite.
- Workplace stress Look to your leadership team to troubleshoot workplace issues. Build a strong culture of teamwork and communication.
- Performance management and expectations How are you measuring success? Is it realistic? Does it need to be redefined?
It may sound strange to examine your HR and business processes from a sleep perspective, but don’t let that stop you from thinking about ways to encourage less stress and more rest.
It’s hard to drive great business results when your employees are asleep at the wheel.