The link between a lack of sleep and poor productivity at work

Tanya Pinto
The link between a lack of sleep and poor productivity at work

How would you define a productive employee? Picture this:

  • Employee A has been working long hours in office, dealing with an important project. He knows he can’t afford to take a break in such an urgent situation, so during the day he drinks five cups of coffee to keep him awake. He leaves for home at midnight, and then is up again at 4am to take a flight for a client meeting.
  • Employee B, on the other hand, comes to the office at 9am, goes back home at 5.30pm to have dinner with his family, and retires to bed at 11pm for eight solid hours of sleep. In fact, he even sneaks in a ten-minute nap during the lunch break.

If you were asked to pick which employee was more likely to be productive, which one would you choose? If you think employee A is more effective at his work, you may be wrong. According to research, replacing essential sleep with work is a recipe for disaster.

Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, urges people to stop treating their sleep deficit like a professional achievement, and instead catch enough sleep to maintain productivity at the workplace.

According to experts people between the age of 25-64 require between 7-9 hours of sleep. Lack of sleep can greatly damage employee productivity. The following are some actionable solutions you can use to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Five reasons why lack of sleep affects employees and is bad for your company:

Lack of focus: In a research study involving the job performance of medical professionals, it was found that lack of sleep significantly increased medical errors.

Poor memory and organization: Research involving 20,000 Swedish 12 to 19 year olds was conducted in 2015. It was found that there was a strong association between academic failure and self-reports of sleep deprivation. Adequate sleep is very important for strengthening of cognitive skills, consolidating memory, and assimilation of information.

Being uncooperative, anxious and highly stressed: Sleep loss leads to increased emotional volatility, leading to employees not being able to control emotions such as anger and anxiety. This can directly affect their ability to work in a team, or to resolve high-stress situations.

Higher number of sick days: It is common knowledge that lack of sleep causes a range a different health problems including: heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and depression. A tired employee will inevitably become an unhealthy employee. In the UK alone, over 130 million days are being lost to sickness, and that costs the national economy £100 billion a year. Prioritizing your employees’ health is of utmost importance.

Drastically reduces overall productivity: Sleep deprivation causes poor focus and job performance. Averaging four hours of sleep for five days leads to the same level of cognitive impairment as drinking several alcoholic drinks.

What can you do to ensure employees don’t suffer sleep deprivation 

Create a sleep-friendly workplace: Many companies are now changing their workplaces in order to allow employees to rejuvenate. In fact, PwC suggests setting up easily accessible sleeping pods in the office – so that exhausted employees can catch up on sleep! Here’s what it looks like:

energypod

This has already been adopted by several successful businesses:

  • Google’s California headquarters offers nap pods, for employees to catch up on sleep.
  • PwC, following its own research findings, has adopted nap pods at the workplace.
  • Uber’s San Francisco headquarters has special nap rooms specially designed by an interiors firm.

Promote healthy sleep practices amongst employees: A study by Harvard Business School’s Leslie Perlow and Jessica Porter showed that requiring employees take time off actually makes teams of consultants more productive. Consider implementing a similar policy at your workplace. Aside from actually mandating time off, you should consider educating employees on how to sleep better – for instance removing electronic devices from the bedroom – and the benefits of doing so.

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