Are Your Employees Getting Enough Sleep? (And if Not, Why Do You Care?)

Are Your Employees Getting Enough Sleep? (And if Not, Why Do You Care?)

It’s no secret to any harried entrepreneur that getting too little sleep has plenty of ill effects. But did you ever stop to think about the effect lack of sleep might be having on your employees. And, by extension, how that could be affecting your business?

A recent Gallup survey confirms what your mom always told you: People who sleep longer (well, up to a point) have higher overall well-being than those who sleep less. “Well-being,” in Gallup’s terms, measures purpose, social, financial, community and physical well-being.

Every additional hour of sleep improves your well-being — up to eight hours of sleep (more than that, and the benefits level off). The biggest difference was between people who sleep seven hours a night and those who sleep six. In other words, the secret to improved well-being is getting over the “hump” to seven hours — the minimum number of hours the National Sleep Foundation recommends for everyone age 18 and up.

The study also sorted by age and found people aged 30 to 64 (probably most of your work force) were the most affected by lack of sleep. Those 18 to 29 and those over 65 were generally more resilient and better able to handle less sleep.

On average, Americans are getting about an hour less sleep than they did in the 1940s, prior Gallup research shows. Families with both parents working, longer commutes for many employees, and more extracurricular activities for children all contribute to this trend. Today, 42 percent of U.S. adults get an average of less than 7 hours of sleep nightly.

Aside from the harm it does to employees’ nervous systems, lack of sleep can cause lots of problems for your business.

Employees who are drowsy are more likely to be late to work, and less than alert once they arrive. They’re less productive because they’re moving more slowly.

If their work involves machinery, such as delivery drivers, construction workers, or assembly line workers, drowsiness can be downright dangerous to them and your business. At the very least, employees who aren’t operating on full power are less likely to meet their deadlines, think creatively or interact positively with others.

So what can you do to help your employees get better sleep? No, you’re not a nanny, but here are four steps you can take:

Schedule Appropriately

Offering flexible schedules is a good way to help employees get the sleep they need.

By enabling them to work around bad traffic, kids’ school drop-off times and other personal commitments, they can live saner lives with less need to rise at the crack of dawn.

If your company uses swing shift or other night workers and you transition workers from day to night shifts, make sure you do so gradually to provide enough time for employees’ internal clocks to safely adjust to the new schedules.

Provide Sleep Spots

Many big companies have set up “nap rooms” for employees to catch some ZZZs during the workday. A quiet room or two with a few sofas can serve the same purpose for your company by providing places for workers to nap during breaks or lunch hours.

Encourage Exercise

It seems counter-intuitive, but physical exercise helps overcome the effects of sleeplessness while also making it easier to get to sleep at night.

Try holding brief meetings standing up, holding walking meetings or outdoors meetings to perk up tired teams. Encourage employees to take brisk walks around the office park when they need a break, or hold regular “get up and stretch” sessions every hour or so to wake up workers.

Walk the Walk

If your company culture is one where people brag about staying up till all hours, or if you regularly send urgent emails to employees at midnight, make a conscious effort to change your ways.

As the boss, you’ll likely still be burning the midnight oil, but don’t require your employees to do so all the time. You can still compose emails at midnight — just save them in “drafts” and send them in the morning.

Instead of talking about how late you were up, start sharing the things you’re doing to improve your health.

By taking a few simple steps, you can make your employees more productive — and happier.

Asleep at Work 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.