Are Exhausted Employees Destroying Your Business?

sleepy staffers

Very few entrepreneurs get enough sleep, and the “sleep shortage” is affecting employees too. Seven out of 10 workers in a recent survey  (PDF) by Accountemps/Robert Half report they are frequently tired on the job — which could be putting your business at risk.

Overall, 77 percent of men and 71 percent of women in the survey report frequently working while tired. A whopping 86 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds regularly work while tired, compared to just half of employees 55 and over. But before you dismiss these sleepy staffers as whiners, consider this: Working while tired has serious consequences for employers.

The Risks of Sleepy Staffers

If your employees operate machinery, drive on the job, or care for vulnerable clients (such as children in a daycare center), the risks of sleepiness are pretty obvious. However, even if your employees spend most of the day at their desks, being tired at work negatively affects U.S. companies’ productivity to the tune of $63 billion a year.

More than half (52 percent) of employees get distracted easily, 47 percent procrastinate more and 29 percent make more mistakes when they’re tired. These aren’t minor mistakes, either: among the errors survey respondents admitted to are “Ordered 500 more computers than were needed;” “Accidentally paid everyone twice;” and “Deleted a project that took 1,000 hours to put together.”

You can’t control what employees do on their off time, but you can take some steps to help prevent overtired workers. Start by being honest. If you notice an employee’s work seems to be suffering due to tiredness, have an open conversation with him or her to discover the cause. If it’s work-related, here are some things you can do:

Set Up a Nap Room

Some 55 percent of employees in the survey say they would use a nap room if their company had one. However, only 2 percent of employers in the survey currently offer nap rooms. If you survey your employees and find that they’d actually use a nap room, it doesn’t have to be fancy. Just putting a couch or a few comfortable chairs in an out-of-the way nook or unused cubicle can work.

Institute Flexible Work Schedules

Some people are night owls while others are morning larks. When employees have to work on a schedule that doesn’t fit their natural rhythms it can lead to over-tiredness. If possible, give your team the option to choose from flexible schedules organized around certain core hours. For example, you can require everyone to be there from 9 AM to 3 PM, but offer flexibility around those hours.

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Offer Telecommuting Options

Lengthy commutes can eat into sleep time and lead to tired employees. Allowing workers to telecommute if it’s a fit with their job duties can help them get enough shut-eye.

Reassess Workloads For Sleepy Staffers

Are employees exhausted only during certain busy times of the year? If so, consider enlisting temporary employees or outside contractors to handle the overload. If certain employees are doing more than their share, figure out ways to redistribute the work so no one is burning the midnight oil.

Be a Role Model

If you give lip service to the idea of getting enough rest, but boast about regularly pulling all-nighters, employees will feel the need to emulate you. Chances are you could use more sleep yourself — so take the lead. Encourage employees to leave the office at a reasonable hour, set regular break times for staffers to get up and move around (this helps energize them), and start bragging about what a good night’s sleep you got last night instead of being up till 4 a.m. Getting even 30 minutes more sleep at night can make a huge difference in the way you feel — and the success of your business.

Exhausted Photo via Shutterstock

Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

3 Reactions
  1. This is the main reason why overworking your staff is not a good option. Your staff are real people. They need rest. Giving them rest actually boosts their productivity.

  2. What you want to do with staff is to increase productivity and not the other way around. The only way to do that is to encourage them.

  3. I think that giving them enough time to rest and to moderate their out puts is a great way to give them some relaxation time.