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Health & Wellbeing
Performance Management
Employment & HR

The impact of poor sleep on productivity in the workplace

Primed
22 August 2023 5 minutes

According to the NHS, a healthy adult should have between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, but most of us are getting an average of just 6 hours. Not getting enough sleep could not only make your employees groggy and unproductive at work, it goes much deeper.

Sleep supports nearly every system in our bodies – sleep rejuvenation is vital for our body to function properly and impacts our ability to be creative, think clearly, learn new information and manage our thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Without enough sleep, we don’t perform at our best, our thinking is impaired, we can be slow to react and emotionally, we can be grumpy or short-tempered.

Long term sleep deprivation can lead to long term sickness and have a severe impact on our health, from heart problems to dementia.

A recent study has found that poor sleep is costing the UK around £50 Billion per year and 200,000+ hours of working days are lost as a result.

The reality is that poor sleep hygiene is negatively impacting your business and here’s why.

 

Poor quality work

Poor sleep usually leads to poor-quality work because you’re less productive and less alert when doing tasks. When you’re tired, it often takes twice as long to do anything because you struggle to concentrate or get easily distracted.

In business, time is money, so the longer someone takes to do their work, the more it’s costing you.

Bad quality work can affect customer satisfaction levels, which reflects badly on your firm and ultimately affects your profitability.

 

Poor communication

Feeling really tired has a huge effect on your mood.

People with deprived sleep are more likely to be angry, frustrated, sad and irritable which not only has an impact on their ability to do their work but also on the whole team.

It makes people less willing to collaborate with others because feeling tired is draining on your whole body and mental capacity. Sometimes tired people may not be able to communicate coherently which is a real problem when you work with other people or are a manager trying to communicate with your team.

Tiredness can make us forgetful, we may not remember what we’ve agreed to do

Gaps in communication at work can lead to mistakes being made and can cause problems within the team dynamic. Let’s face it, no one wants to work with someone who is quick to anger or in a negative mood.

 

Risk-taking

The HSE found that inadequate sleep can lead to an increase in risk-taking behaviour due to the lack of clarity and focus.

Sleep deprivation can affect someone’s ability to make rational decisions which can impact their ability to do their job well.

Depending on the industry this could result in putting other people in danger. If you’re tired and not focusing on the task at hand properly it may mean you’re not performing to the right standard of work, you’re making mistakes or incorrectly following (or not following at all) precautions and procedures that are put in place for safety reasons.

This could lead to serious accidents occurring that should have been avoided.

 

Health & absence issues

A lack of sleep can be one of the biggest factors in absence cases or presenteeism.

It’s thought that nearly 40% of the population have sleep problems and don’t seek help so it’s a real issue for employers to consider as part of their well-being provisions.

Links between sleep and depression are strong – 75% of people with depression also suffer from a serious sleep conditions such as insomnia.

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What can employers do to prevent poor sleep hygiene?

As an employer, you’re not a parent so you can’t control how much sleep an employee has. But there are some things you can do to highlight the issue and help make improvements.

 

Help manage stress, anxiety and working hours

Sleep related problems often stem from stress and anxiety. For many people, when they try to fall asleep at night, they find themselves worrying or thinking about work or have disrupted sleep when they wake up in the middle of the night, struggling to control their thoughts and worrying about work.

Sometimes, stress at work may be unavoidable but it shouldn’t be stressful all the time.

Are your line managers having open conversations with their team about work-load? Are you short-staffed and need to recruit more people to reduce the burden on others?

 

Creating a culture of well-being

Another thing that contributes to lack of sleep is when employees work longer hours than they are contracted to do. Recent research suggests that on average, UK employees work an extra 3 hours of work a week for free, it might not sound much but over a year, that’s nearly 140 hours extra work.

The report also found that only 36% of employees take their full lunch hour. This gives them less time to relax and refocus, meaning they are less well rested.

As an employer, you could ensure that people are finishing their work at the end of the day by asking them to disconnect at the time they need to and promoting a positive work culture of taking a full lunch hour, perhaps taking time away from the desk and encouraging lunch time walks instead.

You could go as far as creating a company policy saying that emails shouldn’t be answered after a certain hour and meetings shouldn’t be scheduled, to give everyone the opportunity to wind down.

You may have seen plenty in the news about the ‘right to disconnect’ with countries such as France and Spain pioneering the right for employees to switch off devices outside of their established working hours to guarantee that their personal time is respected.

 

Encourage exercise and activity

More exercise can help people sleep better, so you could offer gym membership discounts, or arranging a well-being hour where people can take time to exercise during the working day or organising pre-work or post-work yoga or pilates classes for instance.

Joe Wicks also known as The Body Coach has a whole range of resources focusing on the importance of sleep including his podcast with sleep guru Dr Matthew Walker and his blog with top tips around sleep and the link with exercise.

 

Sleep resources

Whoop

Whoop is a fitness tracker brand used by elite athletes. It tracks all elements of health from sleep and recovery to heart rate and heart rate variability. They use members data to create research reports about what impacts sleep and recovery. You can read some of their interesting research here.

Dr Matthew Walker

Dr Matthew Walker is a leading sleep scientist with an international best-seller book Why We Sleep and now a podcast exploring sleep in detail which we can all learn something from.

The Sleep Foundation

The Sleep Foundation has a huge range of resources across a range of topics from how caffeine, diet and activity impact sleep, tips and the latest research.

The Sleep Charity

This is a helpful article for employers looking to understand the impact of poor sleep on employees – including shift workers and drivers, along with their Charter For Sleep.

 

Need help navigating performance & well-being?

As we’ve covered in this article, poor performance and well-being impacts SMEs negatively. At Primed, we give businesses personal support managing performance and well-being initiatives from qualified HR advisors to manage workplace compliance and HR challenges confidently.

We frequently advise clients on how to manage performance and can provide advice on carrying out investigations. Find out how we can support you and your team, speak to an expert today on 01622 47 41 49 or emailing info@primed.co.uk.

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