The amount—and the quality—of sleep a person gets each night is inextricably linked to their overall well-being.
Proper sleep health is essential for the body to rest and repair itself, helping to regulate hormones and brain chemicals that are important for alertness and concentration. People who sleep fewer hours than their body needs may experience fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty making decisions—all of which can affect their work performance.
That’s why employers need to ensure their workforces are educated about and able to receive a sufficient amount of sleep. Beyond fostering employee health and well-being, promoting sleep and encouraging adequate rest can boost business outcomes by:
- Enhancing productivity
- Optimizing revenue
- Building employee, team, and organizational morale
But how can employers support healthy sleep habits, and what does healthy sleep even look like for most working adults?
Fatigue, Hustle Culture, and Workplace Productivity
The recent globalization of workforces has introduced more opportunities for connection, team-building, and creative collaboration.
But for some employees, it also places more obstacles between finishing work and getting adequate rest.
Global teams of employees often struggle to balance sleep-wake hours in order to collaborate with international colleagues. While after-hours calls may foster healthy global team rapport, collaboration, and productivity, they also directly affect an employee’s sleep schedule.
For as long as workforces have operated on hourly work models, employees have historically been rewarded for prioritizing work over sleep. The predominant message is that in order to achieve success, a worker must sacrifice rest by working harder, longer, and minimizing downtime.
But according to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately half of individuals in the United States experience daytime fatigue three to seven times per week.
While there are many variables to consider in terms of personal schedules and routines, the majority of adults spend a great deal of time at work. Thus, good sleep is as much an employer’s responsibility as it is a personal one.
Research shows that 7% of U.S. workers suffer from poor sleep on a regular basis, costing organizations an estimated $44 billion annually due to:
- Missed work
- Impaired focus
- Difficulty learning and consolidating memory
Addressing fatigue at work isn’t an easy conversation to have, but by showing employees that rest, respite, and work-life balance are integral aspects of well-being, employers can foster a more holistic culture of well-being that supports the unique needs of employees.
The Benefits of Healthy Sleep
Being well-rested does wonders for the body, mind, and spirit, according to research from Deloitte. But it can also have profound benefits on the holistic well-being of employees.
For the body, getting adequate sleep is conducive to a stronger and healthier immune system, increased energy levels, and heightened productivity.
For the mind, getting a healthy amount of sleep contributes to better focus, increased engagement at work, and more reliable retention of information. Because sleep deprivation affects short- and long-term memory, important and strategic decision-making becomes more challenging when workers are operating on minimal sleep.
And finally, deep sleep helps employees stay positive, fosters emotional stability, and even reduces their likelihood of acting on negative emotions at work—all key elements to building and maintaining a culture of well-being within an organization.
What Is a Healthy Amount of Sleep?
Not getting enough sleep or sleeping too much can have a damaging impact on both an individual’s physical and mental health, which affects an individual’s ability to think clearly at work.
So what is a healthy amount of rest?
Experts, sleep scientists, and the CDC recommend that adults get at least seven hours and up to nine hours of restful sleep per night to achieve high work performance in the daytime. Anything less than that is often not enough to be fully rested and mentally alert upon waking.
According to the National Safety Council, fatigue from a sleep disorder, shift work, and sleep deprivation can also increase the likelihood of:
- Lost productivity
- Workplace accidents and injuries
Common Sleep Myths
When it comes to sleep, there are a few common misconceptions that require a little more research and information to fully understand.
According to SHRM, there’s more to the story behind these sleep myths:
- Employees can catch up on sleep during the weekend. While repairing a sleep-wake cycle in this way may be possible for occasional sleep loss, it doesn’t effectively treat the damage that comes from severe sleep deprivation.
- Requiring a lot of sleep is a sign of weakness. While certain work models discourage rest and sleep in an effort to get ahead, boosting sleep quality actually provides long-term benefits to an employee’s physical and mental health.
- Lack of sleep is not fatal. In extreme cases, severe sleep deprivation can indeed be fatal. Not to mention, it also increases the chance of a workplace accident or unnecessary injury occurring on the clock.
Encouraging Healthy Sleep Habits for Your Employees
Workplaces that promote flexibility and work-life balance are better positioned to encourage and facilitate healthy sleep habits.
Radical changes that allow regular, allotted times for napping may not be the right answer for some businesses, but that doesn't mean employers can’t take alternate approaches to facilitate better sleep for global and domestic workforces.
It all starts with educating employees on how to make time for rest and weaving those initiatives into larger, strategic wellness programs. Here are a few examples of how to support workforces in building healthier sleep habits:
- Continuous education on the importance of sleep and incentivized sleep challenges. Scheduling webinars that provide up-to-date information on sleep health shows employees how poor sleep habits can affect sleep quality while providing helpful tips for optimizing deep sleep REM cycles. WellRight offers an array of sleep challenges that foster the gradual formation of healthy sleep habits—for example, ShutDown invites employees to avoid any kind of media (i.e. social media, movies, video games) at least one hour before bed to encourage cognitive downtime.
- Ensuring offices have lots of natural light. Light affects an individual’s circadian rhythm, as do temperature and noise, according to the CDC. Providing increased exposure to natural sunlight can significantly and positively impact the sleep quality and cognitive function of in-office employees.
- Easy and ample access to water and healthy snack options on-site. Diet and hydration play an integral role in essential bodily and cognitive systems, including sleep. Providing plenty of options for employees to stay hydrated is one important way to improve sleep quality, cognition, and mood, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
- Discouraging after-hours emails and video calls. Enacting policies that help employees unplug after their shifts is a great way to facilitate a healthier sleep pattern. Discouraging after-hours emails and video calls can directly help employees reduce their stress levels in the evening, leading to higher-quality sleep. Employers can even create incentivized challenges that reward employees for not answering emails after work.
A robust wellness program includes everything that employers and employees need to become their best selves. As a core piece of the wellness puzzle, sleep quality and quantity are key factors when it comes to boosting employee well-being, workplace culture, and organizational success.
Contact us today to learn more and book a personalized demo.