Good night, sleep tight…

Thursday February 2, 2017

If you have been struggling with underperforming staff recently, a new survey points the finger at the bedroom.

No, it’s not what you are thinking! According to this study, almost a third of British workers suffer from poor sleep. The study was based upon self-assessment from almost 40,000 employees from companies such as O2 and Quintiles.

It is fairly common knowledge that most people need eight hours of sleep each night to function at their best. Those that regularly fall short of this level may become less productive, lose concentration, have a weakened immune system and – let’s not forget – feel grumpy.

Monday mornings (according to a different survey) fill employees with extra dread. Fear of the commute, in particular, leads to some of the workforce suffering from what they term “Sunday-somnia”.

Not good news for employers then, but what can they do? Unfortunately there is not a silver bullet, but that is not to say that nothing can be done.

For starters, the survey identified smoking, migraines and high blood pressure as being linked to bad sleep. So some general work on employee well-being could have the knock-on effect of improving sleep.

Smoking = bad, but one of the other main guilty pleasures – drinking alcohol – apparently resulted in slightly improved sleep on average: so on balance a moral crusade is unlikely to work.

Let’s return back to that buzzword ‘well-being.’ One of the strongest contributing factors to bad sleep was depression, while happy employees seemed to get the best sleep.  Many employee benefits packages offer Employee Assistance Programmes. These can offer counseling for depression and work-life balance, so there could definitely be mileage in promoting well-being through Employee Benefits.

Other trends blamed for poorer quality sleep today include the increasing habit of employees taking work home with them, and people replacing a good bedtime read with spending an extra hour staring at a smartphone or tablet.

Reading a book is proven to be relaxing, while concentrating on screens has the opposite effect.  And while, at face value, seeing your staff squeeze in some extra work at home may seem like a boost to productivity, it may actually be counter-productive if it ultimately sends them into a vicious cycle of disrupted sleep patterns.

Our German friends, normally better known for ruthless efficiency, made a surprising suggestion. A study at the Institute of Medical Psychology (part of a Bavarian University) found that if you let employees work to their own sleep patterns (read: let them have lie-ins) they will become healthier and happier.

A lovely thought but not terribly practicable. For one, the working world does not stand still just because someone is having a lie-in. And two, what about parents? Even if a kindly boss may let them have a lie-in, young children will not be so accommodating.

To explore Employee Assistance Programmes and other employee benefits that promote employee well-being speak to the HR Dept today.

Preventing People Problems

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