Getting an optimal amount of sleep doesn't just boost mood and infuse the body with extra energy—it can also improve on-the-job performance of employees.
When we're drowsy, the brain is not as creative and doesn’t process information as quickly or retain important facts as well. Adults who sleep fewer than six hours a night have a 13% higher mortality rate than adults who sleep at least seven hours. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.
How sleep deprivation affects work and performance
In our latest blog post we will take a look at how sleep deprivation can affect your performance in the work place and the main reasons why getting a good nights sleep is beneficial to work performance.
How to encourage employees to get better sleep:
- Set boundaries for working hours and limit work done in overtime.
- Provide support for employees to take a break from alcohol.
- Encourage staff to take time off, utilising their full holiday allowances and encouraging people to take sick days when under the weather.
Beyond the negative health effects of not getting enough sleep, there are also significant economical consequences as many who are sleep deprived are part of the workforce. Research from Harvard University measured the impact of fatigued employees on the US economy and found that insomnia results in the loss of an estimated 11.3 days of productivity per average US worker each year, which equates to roughly $63.2 billion. In the UK an estimated 200,000 working days are lost due to insufficient sleep, with the annual cost of lost sleep estimated to be £30 billion.
Conversely, getting enough sleep has been associated with a number of job performance-boosting benefits, including improved focus, memory, decision-making, response time, and accuracy.
Four ways better sleep can improve employees work performance:
Here are four ways to combat sleep deprivation to help improve your performance at work in 2020.
- Faster recovery from distractions. When sleep-deprived, we have more trouble refocusing on the task at hand after a disruption, compared with someone who is well rested. Research from Michigan State University, found that sleep deprivation causes distraction and memory problems. It has a significant impact on our ability to recover from distraction. The study found that among the sleep-deprived, “error rates were elevated, and errors reflecting memory failures increased with time-on-task.” Prioritising sleep will help employees re-focus when distracted in the middle of a task, something that is all to common in our modern open-plan offices.
- Help prevent burnout. A study in Stockholm found that insufficient sleep predicts clinical burnout. The results identified “too little sleep”, sleeping less than six hours each night, one of the best predictors of burnout. As referenced above, sleep deprivation costs companies billions a year in lost productivity. Encouraging employees to get the recommended 7-9 hours sleep a night can help to prevent burnout.
- Better decision making. A study by UCLA’s Dr. Itzhak Fried found that sleep deprivation disrupts brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other. The research that disruption leads to temporary mental lapses that affect memory and visual perception. Sleep improves the ability to make more accurate split-second decisions, and improves memory and perception to enable more logical decision making.
- Fewer Mistakes. Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to someone who is under the influence of alcohol. Research found that after 17-19 hours without sleep, common for many office workers, response speeds were up to 50% slower for simple tasks and accuracy measures were significantly poorer than those under the influence of alcohol. Increasing sleep improves accuracy and performance for workers (and everyone else).
Adequate sleep is often the first thing to reduce when life gets busy with heavy workloads, irregular schedules, school, and, for some, parenting responsibilities. All of these normal, but increasingly time-consuming realities tend to crowd out the time and peace of mind needed to get enough rest. Sleep often moves to the bottom of our employees list of priorities.
How to help employees get better sleep
Set boundaries for office work to be completed in office hours. People spend an average of 4.5 hours doing extra work at home each week, with 20% spending 10 or more hours doing additional work at home. Set rules to prevent work from overflowing into home life. Work to make sure no one is sending emails or requests after hours, and that management support this policy. If your staff feel they don’t have enough time in the day to complete their work, consider reevaluating their workload.
Being able to shut the mind off before falling asleep is pertinent to a good night’s rest. If there isn’t a clear boundary between work and home life, it can be difficult for employees to turn their minds off and sleep.
Multiple studies have shown that more hours worked does not equal more productivity. Create a workplace culture that recognises workers and teams who achieve goals on time and during work hours, and set limits for after hours work. If you regularly reward those who arrive early and stay late, you set an example that success coincides with extra hours worked.
Champion better sleep practices. Many people believe that a nightcap can help them get a better night’s sleep, yet a review of 27 studies has found that alcohol does not improve sleep quality. According to the findings, alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep quicker, but it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Disruptions in REM sleep have been shown to cause daytime drowsiness and poor concentration. “Alcohol may seem to be helping you to sleep, as it helps induce sleep, but overall it is more disruptive to sleep, particularly in the second half of the night,” says researcher Irshaad Ebrahim, medical director at The London Sleep Centre in the U.K.
Providing an alcohol-free corporate wellness programme like One Year No Beer to employees can be a beneficial way to improve your employee’s sleep and educate them as to the benefits of an alcohol-free period, whilst saving your business money by improving productivity levels and reducing alcohol-related stress and absence.
Encourage paid time off. Many companies offer paid sick leave, but employees are rarely encouraged to take any. A study conducted by Glassdoor showed that 61 percent of employees would rather work when feeling under the weather, instead of taking a sick day. Employers can encourage time off through verbal repetition, especially around the holidays. At the end of team meetings and annual reviews, reiterate to employees that you want them to take the time they need to rest and spend time with friends and family. Enforcing a “don’t come to work if sick” policy can also help employees get the rest they need.
Quality sleep equals quality work
A well-rested employee makes fewer mistakes and is more productive; whilst employees who don’t get enough sleep can develop depression, lose focus, and become sick more easily. Employers can benefit from encouraging employees to improve their sleep habits and get 7-9 hours of alcohol-free sleep a night. An employee who has had enough sleep is a productive, happy, and successful worker, making you a more productive and successful company.