Health & Wellness

Want to Improve Productivity? Help Employees Sleep Better

By Shelley Lai on March, 12 2019

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Shelley Lai

Marketing Communications Specialist

Sleep is often underrated. But whether you realize it or not, Canada is experiencing a sleep epidemic.

In fact, we are the third most sleep deprived nation in the world, on par with the US (source).

And lack of sleep strongly correlates with low productivity. If your employees are sleep deprived, your business can take a hit—as much as $3,156 per employee annually (source).

While you can't revamp employees' home lives, you can lead them toward healthy habits. In this blog, we’ll discuss strategies to help your employees get enough z's—so they can show up to work bright-eyed and fully engaged.


The Alarming State of Sleep in Canada

So just how bad is the sleep situation? Check out these sleep stats from Statistics Canada:

  • 43% of men and 55% of women have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep.
  • ⅓ of Canadians get less than 7 hours of sleep a night.
  • Canadians are getting less sleep than they used to. Between 2007 and 2013, we got an average of 7.12. In 2005, that average was around an hour more each night—about 8.2.
  • ⅓ of Canadians find it hard to stay awake during the day.

Sleep cycles occur in 90 minute phases, so ideally, we need a minimum of 7.5 hours to go through five full sleep cycles each night.

Furthermore, insufficient sleep is associated with a host of chronic health issues, such as:

  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Increased injuries
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Reduced overall well-being

So what causes insufficient sleep? Here are some common culprits:

  • Exposure to TV or device screens at night
  • Too much caffeine
  • Work stress
  • Social and family commitments

Now, how does this affect you as an employer?

Learn how employee wellness programs improve the health of employees and  organizations>>

Presenteeism is the New Absenteeism

In Canada, absenteeism costs companies $16.6 billion. And what if employees come to work, but are too tired to function properly? When they’re present physically, but absent mentally?

This is called presenteeism, and can cost businesses 10 times more than absenteeism, according to a recent study.

So let’s look at some ways you can tackle this form of presenteeism and encourage your team to sleep better.

How Can Employers Address the Sleep Epidemic? Focus on These 3 Areas:

1. Prioritize Employee Health From the Top Down

Business leaders have the power to influence the health of those they lead. Healthy employees are more productive than unhealthy ones. So the return on investment can be significant.

In fact, research shows there’s a savings of $5.81 for every $1 invested on employee health—thanks to less absenteeism, greater productivity, better morale, and lower staff turnover.

NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommends that employers make wellness a core priority for top management. Don't forget to invite employees to participate in devising healthcare strategies.

(See also: 5 Practical Ways to Support Working Caregivers)

2. Promote the Importance of Sleep in Your Company Culture

Making employee health a top priority is only a first step. To make a difference, it’s essential to take action to help them get the sleep they need.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Give Employees Time to Nap

It may sound counterproductive, but consider allowing employees to have short naps, which can effectively restore energy and focus. Take inspiration from major companies, like Google and Zappos, who provide “nap rooms” for staff to catch up on lost sleep.

But make sure employees don’t nap for longer than 20 minutes. If they do, they could have even more trouble falling asleep.


Don’t Overload Your Workers

Avoid setting unrealistic time pressures for employees. If they’re working around the clock and skimping on shut-eye, they can’t produce their best work. Emphasize quality time at the office, not quantity of time.

Whenever possible, avoid making your employees work overtime. Let them go home at regular times—to recharge, to run errands, and to maintain a consistent sleep schedule.

Be Flexible and Emphasize Work/Life Balance

Allow employees to work from home if it makes sense. Give special consideration to those with long commutes or those with family or financial pressures. Also, encourage your team to maintain a good work/life balance. You can do your part by not contacting them about work-related matters while they're on vacation or at home.

(See also: 4 Simple Ways to Encourage Employees to Take Vacation)

Share “Sleep Hygiene” Tips with Employees

To inspire employees to get smarter about their sleep habits, share this list of tips with them.

  1. Avoid screens for at least one hour before going to bed.
  2. Keep alarm clocks out of sight. Seeing the time throughout the night can be anxiety-provoking.
  3. Keep your bed for sleeping. Don’t use a phone or eat while in bed.
  4. Don’t have too many caffeinated drinks or eat too much chocolate past 12:00 pm.
  5. Finish any vigorous exercise three-to-four hours before going to bed.
  6. Don’t eat too late at night. Eat a lighter dinner, and finish eating at least one hour before bed.
  7. Avoid drinking alcohol before bed, which can cause you to wake up more during the night.
  8. Wind down before bed. Take a relaxing bath, meditate, do gentle stretches, or listen to quiet music.
  9. Try waking up at the same time everyday, even on weekends. This aligns your body’s clock to a routine schedule that will help you fall asleep and wake up more easily.

3. Launch a Workplace Wellness Program

To support the actions mentioned above, implement an ongoing program that targets employee wellness. 

Employee wellness programs are fully customizable, and can address a variety of wellness issues. To address sleep concerns, here are some of the components your employee wellness program could include:

  • “Sleep 101” workshops that explain the physiology of sleep
  • Private sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia, known as “CBT-I”. (A great online resource for this is Haleo, an insomnia clinic that employees can access by video conference.)
  • Onsite screenings for potential sleep issues. Early detection can catch bad habits before they become full-blown insomnia.

To promote your workplace wellness program, you could even throw a half-day health fair with a "healthy sleep" theme.


To boost your team's productivity, you have a secret weapon right under your nose: sleep.

So it’s important to make employee health a priority in your organization from the top-down.

Consider allowing your team to have short naps, offer flexible work arrangements, and give them enough down time. Implement a workplace wellness program to help educate, train, and support your them. Encourage your employees to take charge of their health—and give them the tools to do so. You’ll then be able to turn chronic sleepiness into increased engagement, focus, and employee satisfaction.

Next Step

Ready to learn more about the benefits of an employee wellness program? 

Download our free guide: Employee Wellness 101: How Healthy Employees Lead to Healthy Returns >>

Get Ready For An Effective Employee Benefits Program

Benefits renewal time is a great opportunity to revise your current plan. Here’s what you need to know before you renew.


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