What does sleep have to do with workplace productivity? Pretty much everything.

The research is abundant and clear. Chronic sleep deprivation has negative consequences on concentration, reaction time, decision making, and memory. People who are sleep deprived have trouble completing many tasks that require logical reasoning or complex thought. In fact, one study found that being sleep deprived is basically the same as being drunk. And while employers would never allow an employee to be intoxicated on the job, we allow (and even encourage!) sleep-deprived individuals to come in and do their jobs every single day.

But isn’t sleep a personal issue?

To some extent, yes. Your employees are in charge of their own sleep habits, but work is definitely a factor. And while you may only see your colleagues working away during their scheduled shifts, what you might not realize is just how much work is also creeping into their “off” hours or causing them to lose sleep.

A recent CareerBuilder sleep study revealed some fascinating statistics. Of the 3,200 workers surveyed, 61% of them reported that sleep deprivation affected their work in one or more ways. A whopping 58% of respondents said they didn’t get enough sleep— with 44% admitting that just thinking about work kept them up at night. Wondering how many of these folks reported getting the doctor-recommended 8 hours per night? A shocking 16%.

There are many work-related reasons why your employees are 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

Can employers really help?

Yes! But it all starts with being aware of the issue and educating your employees. Much investigation has been done on how to combat or reduce fatigue, both in the moment and over the long term. This information is readily available online. Communicate with your employees 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.

But communication is just the beginning. If you really want to make a difference, take a look at your current processes and incorporate ways to address some of the issues affecting your employees.

Long commutes: Allow employees to adjust their schedules to avoid traffic delays. Consider telecommuting options.

24-hour accessibility: Encourage employees to unplug when at home. Provide flexible paid time off.

Increasing workloads: Ask your team if they feel their tasks are manageable and achievable, then make adjustments.

Extended hours/overtime: Are those long shifts really necessary? Could you do some hiring?

Off-hour or rotating shifts: Provide ample break times. Consider napping and exercise rooms. Provide coffee and tea.

Stressful work environment: Look to your leadership team to troubleshoot workplace issues. Build a strong culture of teamwork and communication.

Unattainable performance metrics: How are you measuring success? Is it realistic? Does it need to be re-defined?

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 shuteye. After all, you can’t drive great results if your employees are asleep at the wheel.


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