Sleep deprivation; the wake-up call for businesses
Sleep. We all do it. We couldn’t survive without it. And other than the obvious benefit of helping us to function on a daily basis, it has many other positive health effects. From helping to boost immunity, improving mental wellbeing, preventing diabetes, protecting against heart disease and increasing fertility. In essence sleep is incredibly important for our quality of life.
But according to the NHS, one in three of us suffer from a bad sleeping pattern, with stress, too much time in front of a computer and taking work home often blamed. Unfortunately having difficult falling asleep or waking up in the night worrying about work, or other life stresses, is a daily reality for many of us.
So how does a poor night’s sleep actually affect UK business? A recent study by think tank Rand discovered that workers who are tired at work, or don’t turn up through exhaustion, cost the UK economy £40 billion every year. Poor concentration and less motivation are both outcomes of a bad night’s sleep, having a detrimental effect on the productivity of an employer’s workforce, potentially affecting the success of new contracts or keeping customers happy. One small mistake made every day due to tiredness could very well have a detrimental long-term effect on a business’ bottom line.
Health professionals recommend getting eight-nine hours of good quality sleep every night, however this will be different from person to person. Some people can happily function on less sleep and still be productive the next day. But for the great majority, getting a solid chuck of approximately eight hours sleep each night will be fundamental to how they act the next day. Rand’s study also found that employees who sleep less than six hours a night lose around six more working days through absenteeism each year than those who sleep seven to nine hours a night; a costly impact on a company’s productivity.
Aside from changes to mood and concentration, lack of sleep can have a much more serious effect on a person’s health. Long term poor sleep can make you prone to serious medical problems, in particular obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure. A regular and sustained sleeping pattern is key to combating this.
So as an employer, what can you do to manage tiredness in the workplace? The trick is ensuring employees are staying alert. While hot stuffy offices with low lighting are known for making workers feel sleepy, well air conditioned and aerated rooms with lots of natural light can encourage people to stay awake. When it comes to businesses that run on shifts, it’s a good idea to minimise permanent night shifts and to ensure that employees have two consecutive days off, which will give them plenty of time to catch up on lost sleep.
Some employers have been known to implement dedicated ‘relaxation areas’, a place where employees can take short sleep breaks. It won’t work for every workplace, but as the employer you should be able to make a call on whether this will be effective for your company. Finally, ensuring your staff are eating lunch will also help keep them alert through the day.
If you’re concerned about an employee who seems sluggish, or their mood has changed, speak with them directly and formulate a way forward. There may be ways you can help them in this matter for example by potentially altering their working hours.
Implementing corporate health plans will also encourage employees to take a greater interest in their overall health and will assist them with any potential medical bills they may incur as they look to remedy their sleep isses. Ultimately, doing what you can to help your staff get more sleep will have a positive and long lasting effect on office productivity.
Andy Wilkins is CEO of Plutus Health