When the Nobel Prize in medicine is awarded to sleep researchers, you know it’s time to pay attention. This year, the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm. Their research found that wellbeing is affected when there is a temporary mismatch between our external environment and this internal biological clock,” and uncovered “indications that chronic misalignment between our lifestyle and the rhythm dictated by our inner timekeeper is associated with increased risk for various diseases.”
These findings are consistent with research from the national Centers for Disease Control that lack of sleep is linked to conditions that include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. Healthy employees are important, but what about productivity? A 2017 study found that two consecutive nights with less than six hours of sleep are associated with decreases in performance which last for a period of six days.
And Glassdoor’s own research shows that employees want more sleep. While the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep, three in four (74 percent) full and part time employees surveyed by Glassdoor say they average just 6.9 hours of sleep per night. Our survey also found that 66 percent say they would be better employees if they got more sleep, especially those ages 18-44 (73 percent) compared to those ages 45-64 (59 percent). With 87 percent of employees saying that they expect their employer to support them in balancing their life between work and personal commitments, it’s worth putting some effort into helping employees get enough sleep. Here’s what you can do:
- Provide education. Employees might not know how lack of sleep is hurting them, even it has nothing to do with work. Late-night Netflix binges can impact productivity as much as after-hours work. Include tidbits on sleep research in your wellness education, such as the employee newsletter, bulletin boards or intranet. Also educate managers on how to spot the signs of sleeplessness in their employees (poor performance, dark circles under eyes, high caffeine consumption, weight change) and ask if they can do anything to support them.
- Set boundaries for after hours work. If one team member consistently sends emails with to-dos after normal business hours, employees may think they need to respond right away. Encourage employees to schedule emails and post reasonable deadlines in all requests. When dealing with clients, don’t be afraid to push back on unreasonable requests that would push employees’ limits. And for companies on a 24/7 clock or worldwide partners, identify which circumstances require an after hours response.
- Create a culture of smart work, not overwork. If the employees that get rewarded and recognized are consistently those who work mega-hours and pull all-nighters, other employees will get the message that the only way to get ahead is burn themselves out at the expense of home life. Reward teams that accomplish goals on time and within work hours as well as those who go the extra mile.
- Encourage paid time off. Vacation and sick days are necessary for employees to rest, recharge, and sleep on their own schedule. When three in five (61 percent) of employees in our survey acknowledge they would rather work when they feel sick than use their paid time off or sick time, you know it it’s time for a change. For more tips on creating a PTO-friendly culture, read our eBook Effectively Managing Employee Paid Time Off.
- Promote flextime. Not everyone works best on the same sleep schedule. If your business allows for it, let employees set the working hours that works best for their sleep schedule. A one hour time difference, such as showing up at 10:00 AM versus 9:00 AM, can make a world of difference for an employee’s productivity.
- Add nap rooms. Sometimes a 20-minute nap hits the spot for refreshed productivity. The list of highly accomplished people who napped is long. It’s hard to fall asleep in an ergonomic chair or at a standing desk, so give employees a place to lie down. Companies that have nap rooms include Google, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Zappos.
- Carmel Galvin, Glassdoor chief human resources officer, puts it best. She says, “Sleep not only provides physical restoration to the body, but it is critical for cognitive function, concentration and productivity. Employers can help employees get enough rest by reminding them to take time off when they need it, and to avoid screen time before bed. However, employees should also take responsibility for their wellness and recognize most employers want people to take the rest they need to be at their best.” Here’s to you – and your employees – getting the amount of rest needed to thrive on a daily basis.