Health & Wellness

Want to Improve Productivity? Help Employees Sleep Better

By Kandy Cantwell on March, 3 2020
7 minute read

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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. A lack of sleep strongly correlates with low productivity, and sleep deprived employees can cost your business between $1200-$3,100 per employee annually.

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The Alarming State of Sleep in Canada

So just how bad is the sleep situation? Put simply, it's not great. Check out these sleep stats from Statistics Canada:

  • 43% of men and 55% of women have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep.
  • 1 in 3 Canadians get less than 7 hours of sleep a night.
  • 1 in 3 Canadians find it hard to stay awake during the day.

Even one night of poor sleep can have immediate short-term effects. Staying awake for 20-hours straight impairs our reaction speed and reasoning abilities as much drinking a bottle of wine does. 

The cost of consistently neglecting sleep is significant, too. A two week stretch of sleeping six hours a night has the same cognitive effect as going two consecutive nights without sleep. Making poor sleep a habit increases our risk of an early death by 13%.  

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

  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Depression

Fortunately, the causes of insufficient sleep are becoming more well known. Too much exposure to blue light, either through TV, laptop or smartphones, makes it harder for us to get that much needed shut eye. Drinking caffeine too late in the day can leave us alert when we want to be asleep. And drinking too much alcohol, though it may help us get to bed, reduces the overall quality of our sleep. 

External pressures are serious culprits as well. Work stress can leave our minds racing as we lay in bed staring at the ceiling. Even family commitments or social engagements we know are coming up (regardless of if we're looking forward to them) is enough to effect our quality of sleep. 

You can’t change what employees do at home. You can, however, help them form healthier habits. In this blog, we’ll share some strategies to help your employees get enough sleep at night, resulting in them feeling healthier and showing up to work fully engaged.

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

 

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, and healthy employees are more productive than unhealthy ones. In fact, research shows there’s a savings of $5.81 for every $1 invested on employee health—thanks to reduced absenteeism, greater productivity, better morale, and lower staff turnover.

People in leadership positions can examine their workplace culture and how it relates to sleep. If your business encourages long hours and weekend work, it's no surprise employees are sacrificing their sleep quality to keep on top of their domestic responsibilities. 

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 the first step. To make a difference, it’s essential to take action to help them get the sleep they need.

Give Employees Time to Nap

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

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

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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, run errands, and maintain a consistent sleep schedule.

Be Flexible and Emphasize Work/Life Balance

If it makes sense, allow employees to work from home. 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. Finish any vigorous exercise three-to-four hours before going to bed.
  5. Don’t eat too late at night. Eat a lighter dinner, and finish eating at least one hour before bed.
  6. Wake up at the same time everyday, even on weekends. This regulates your circadian rhythms which plays a role in regulating your mood.

Having a wind down routine for bed that you enjoy makes falling asleep much easier. Stretching, meditation, journaling or drawing are all ideas that people have used to great success.

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 address a variety of wellness issues. Here are some of the components your employee wellness program could include to address sleep concerns:

  • “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.

 

Conclusion

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 team. 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

Discover how you can improve the well-being of your employees and improve your company's bottom line with a wellness program.

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