By Heather R. Johnson.
Americans work longer hours, take less vacation time, and retire later than ever before. Our overstressed, overburdened, overconnected society also doesn’t get enough sleep, which makes those extended hours less productive.
A recent study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than a third of American adults don’t get the recommended seven or more hours of sleep each night. Regularly sleeping less than seven hours a day is associated with increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
In the office, sleep-deprived employees have a harder time concentrating and learning and retaining information. These same employees miss work more often due to illness and injury than their rested colleagues. Harvard research shows sleep deprivation costs United States businesses $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity.
To keep employee engagement at its peak, it makes sense to ensure employees arrive to work rested. “There's nothing worse than feeling exhausted,” says sleep expert Christopher Lindholst, CEO of Restworks, which provides napping installations for businesses. “Showing your employees some understanding and providing a support solution will reduce both absenteeism and presenteeism,” the condition where employees are at the office but doing less than optimal work.
Following these simple solutions can help to promote restfulness among your employees. As an added benefit, you may improve your own sleep habits.
1. Offer flexible schedules
Allow employees to occasionally work from home or work around rush-hour traffic or school drop-off or pick-up times. This helps reduce stress and creates more opportunity for productivity-boosting rest.
Small business owners usually work long hours. Your employees don’t always have to. “Working more than a ‘regular shift’ on a long-term basis can be hard on people's physical and mental health, particularly if it means they aren’t getting sufficient sleep,” says Lindholst. Set a cap on the amount of hours employees work each day and discourage weekend work.
3. Create a nap room
A 20-minute nap boosts alertness and performance according to the National Sleep Foundation. Create a private space for employees to catch a quick nap during lunch or break time. An unused office or storage room with a couple sofas can suffice if space and budget are tight.
4. Get the team moving
Physical exercise counters the effects of sleepiness. Start a lunchtime walking group and consider holding walking or outdoor meetings when the weather permits. Encourage employees to stand, stretch, and walk throughout the day.
5. Use an app
Provide a sleep-enhancing app such as Sleep Cycle, which analyzes your sleep patterns. Sleepio uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help improve sleep. Restworks’ new app provides audio tips and tools to support healthy sleep habits.
6. Set a good example
Be a healthy-sleep-habits role model. Don’t send emails at odd hours. Save correspondence as drafts and send in the morning. Share your healthy sleep practices with staff. Also, notice your employees’ physical states. “We have employees with young children,” says Lindholst. “When I see employees who were obviously up most of the night, I encourage them to use our napping pod.”
If you notice your employees reaching liberally for the coffee, consider healthy sleep practices as part of your wellness plan. A more rested team is a more productive team, and that’s good for business and the bottom line.
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