How can employers encourage healthy sleep culture in the workplace?

Do you know if your team members get a good 8 hours’ sleep every night and wake up refreshed and ready for the day? If the answer is no, or it’s obvious that they don’t, this may be unfortunate but it’s not an unusual situation.

The Royal Society for Public Health advises that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. The average time recorded in a recent sleep survey was only 6.8 hours, with many people managing with much less.

Sleep deprivation, insomnia and interrupted nights are now a public health matter that affects us on a national scale.

The effects of chronic sleep deprivation

Chronic lack of sleep has a huge effect on emotional wellbeing and impairs cognitive function that we all need to get through the day. Not getting enough sleep can interfere with work and family life.

It is also directly associated with productivity losses during the working day – to the tune of £30 billion per year, according to a recent research project carried out by the Rand Corporation.

Many companies are now coming to realise the importance of employees’ sleep habits, concerned that ongoing sleep deprivation can lead to undesirable behaviours and a greater risk of workplace accidents borne out of symptoms such as

  • Reduced concentration
  • Slower reaction speeds
  • Memory problems
  • Stress and irritability
  • Difficulty communicating

In the workplace, this can translate into weaker teamwork, higher absenteeism, behavioural issues and, ultimately, more burnout.

Worse still, the long-term health effects of cumulative sleep loss include increased risks of depression and obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Tips for employers to encourage better sleep habits

Put bluntly, a workforce that is chronically underslept is unable to perform to the best of their abilities and productivity will suffer. That’s why it is in employers’ interest to promote better sleep patterns among their staff.

Here are some ideas that may be worth trialling in your business:

Consider sleep friendly work schedules

Put proper sleep right at the top of your HR agenda. Make a concerted effort to work together with your team members’ individual needs to build sleep friendly work schedules that take into account your business needs as well as your staff’s personal needs.

That way, they will find it easier to juggle the demands of their work and private lives in a way that ensures they get enough sleep – which benefits everyone.

Learn from big companies

Take a leaf out of forward looking companies such as Google and Goldman Sachs whose staff training and enrichment programmes include ‘healthy sleep’ as one of the topics. Make your team aware of the potential causes for their poor sleep routines and encourage them to see their GP if necessary.

Provide resources and advice to enable your staff to create the best possible sleep environment at home.

Embrace the productivity-boosting power of naps

Power napping is a proven, effective way to refresh the mind and jumpstart productivity when you’re feeling sluggish, so it’s a good idea to encourage the practice. Could you provide a quiet space for individuals to take a catnap of at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes during the day?

Keep tech devices out of the designated ‘sleep room’ and make sure there is no light or noise disturbance. Simple eye masks, earplugs or a white noise app may help.

Ensure leaders are sleep ‘role-models’

Finally, the importance of being a role model for positive, productive behaviour at work and lead by example should not be underestimated.

Company culture comes from the top, so if you can show your staff that you make it a priority to maximise your own productivity by taking enough rest to recharge your batteries, and that you expect them to do the same, chances are that you will see positive results before long.

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