Getting Your Zzzs

As employees struggle to balance work, family and social obligations, one thing that is often neglected is sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep on average; however, most Americans fail to meet this recommendation.

According to a study from Virgin Pulse, 76 percent of employees reported feeling tired most days of the week. Fatigue and exhaustion can be a serious problem for your business. Fatigued employees are less likely to be productive and focused on the job. This lack of focus can lead to more mistakes, procrastination and a negative work environment.

Increased Health Care Costs

Fatigue can also lead to increased medical costs. Exhausted employees are more likely to miss work and incur medical costs for conditions related to high blood pressure, cholesterol and stress. In addition, fatigued employees are more likely to have an accident at work, which can lead to more workers’ compensation claims.

Individuals with undiagnosed or poorly managed sleep disorders can also take a toll on your company’s bottom line. A study from Harvard Medical School found that one employee with insomnia results in 11 lost days of productivity each year – costing the U.S. economy $63.2 billion a year. Other common sleep disorders include sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, both of which can interfere with employees’ ability to go to work well-rested.

A Better Night’s Sleep

Below are four strategies to help employees get a better night’s sleep.

  1. Allowing flexible scheduling:  Flexible scheduling requires employees to be available within core hours during the day, but allows them to vary their start and end times. This allows employees to better manage their work, family and personal obligations, and find more time for sleep in their daily routines.
  2. Allowing telecommuting:  Allowing employees to work remotely can be a great way to promote a healthier sleep cycle. If your company is located in a city, this may be especially valuable, as employees will likely have longer and more stressful commutes. Instead of spending 30 minutes in the car, employees can spend this extra time sleeping so they are refreshed when they begin their day.
  3. Hiring temporary help during high workloads:  High workloads can stress out employees and make them feel like they should stay later at the office. While output may increase, employees are much more likely to make costly mistakes when they are overworked and tired. If workloads are high, consider hiring temporary employees to alleviate stress and make workloads more manageable.
  4. Offering screening and education:  Consider offering screening for sleep disorders at your health fair or as part of your workplace wellness program. In addition, consider providing educational articles about the importance of sleep and how employees can improve their sleep. By identifying those who may be at risk of having a sleeping disorder and providing education, you can help reduce employee fatigue.

In Summary

The strategies above may not be conducive to every office. When evaluating these options, it is important to evaluate your workplace environment and the needs of your employees. Consider surveying employees about their current workloads and sleep habits to see what strategies may resonate most with your employees. Ask employees to rank or provide input on how valuable they would find telecommuting and flexible scheduling.  Monitoring these programs will be key to ensuring they produce a healthy return on investment.

This blog is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for appropriate advice.