Why Sleep Is a Strategic Resource for Your Company

“Research shows that sleep deprivation has a number of consequences that can affect work performance negatively. So why do so many modern workplaces condone practices that are not conducive to healthy sleep schedules?,” the MIT Sloan Management Review asks.

“Simple as it sounds, regular sleep is the best antidote for a fatigued or stressed-out workforce. Of course, because sleep is in the realm of employees’ private lives, organizations have generally shied away from trying to influence it, even in an era of controlling health-care costs through encouraging preventive behaviors.”

“Worse, many organizations have leaders who actively model behaviors that are not conducive to healthy sleep schedules. For example, if a leader regularly arrives at the crack of dawn or stays late into the evening, he or she is setting the expectation that others need to be at the office at all hours of the day and night — potentially interfering with good sleep patterns. Moreover, if leaders send emails late in the evening and expect a response before the next morning’s workday, employees will feel pressure to monitor email until late at night.”

Key takeaway: “Organizations should both encourage and create a sleep-supportive culture and set of practices. We describe the ineffective and even dangerous conditions under which employees work while short on sleep and the variety of effects sleep deprivation has on individual and organizational performance. A critical takeaway is that even small deficits of sleep can have negative consequences. Although workers often convince themselves that missing a few hours here and there is no big deal, the literature suggests that doing so creates problems. In fact, missing less than one hour of sleep on one night has been linked to memory declines and increases in workplace injuries and ‘cyberloafing.'”

Some tips for managing sleep as a strategic resource:

Create a work culture that values sleep: “Perhaps the most important strategy for managing sleep in organizations is tied to leader behaviors and work culture.”

Leverage your wellness program: “The nicotine that makes smoking so addictive has stimulant properties that can create sleep difficulties. Smoking cessation programs can wean smokers off cigarettes — and in the process, improve employees’ sleep habits. Wellness programs can also help employees be more aware of the dangerous side effects of being overweight.”

Allow employees to separate from work when the workday is finished: “Better sleep habits are likely to follow when employees feel some separation from work at the end of the day. Technologies such as smartphones can keep employees on a short tether to work. While these can provide flexibility for people to be available even when away from the office to attend, for example, a child’s school event, they also can create the sense that one is always ‘on call.'”

Create nap rooms: “Naps that occur during natural dips in circadian rhythms, such as between 1 and 3 p.m., are especially effective.”

Limit the number of hours employees are scheduled to work: “Sleep experts suggest that sleep policies should limit scheduled work to no more than 12 hours a day, and preferably less than that.”

Fast Company: How much sleep should you get?