13 March 2020

Work affects sleep affects work: employers can help break the cycle

Despite experts recommending we should have between seven to nine hours sleep each night, the average Briton gets just six hours and 19 minutes.* Work-related reasons can contribute significantly to a disturbed slumber, but businesses can play an important role in helping employees meet their sleep quotas, and this World Sleep Day (13 March) provides the perfect opportunity.

Hectic work schedules and pressure to meet deadlines can exacerbate the sleeplessness issue, with businesses today not just experiencing ‘presenteeism’ but ‘leavism’ too - workers using evenings, weekends and annual leave to get work done outside of office hours, which can increase stress.

Brett Hill, Distribution Director at Towergate Health & Protection says, ‘We live in a constantly “on” society, where it’s increasingly normal for work to spill into our home lives. But this can have a negative impact on our ability to switch off and get a good night’s sleep. Businesses need to ensure that employees take complete breaks from work, to mentally and physically recuperate and be reenergised for the next working day.’

A continual lack of sleep can seriously affect health** increasing the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, so it’s important that it’s tackled to support wider physical health.

Exercise and diet are also key factors in getting a good night’s sleep. Tiredness can lead to making poor nutritional choices – opting for quick sugar fixes during a slump. And this time of year can be particularly tempting to sit on the sofa, watch TV and eat comfort food.

Onsite sleep-training workshops can help ensure staff have an outlet to discuss any sleep concerns they have. Cracking bad habits – such as bingeing on boxsets into the early hours, drinking alcohol ‘to take the edge off’ and browsing on a smartphone in bed - are just some of the areas that can be addressed to improve sleep.

Hill continues, ‘Organising nutrition talks at work, helping employees to learn about food that will encourage better sleep and vice versa, and facilitating group exercise can all go a long way to help employees establish healthier routines.’

Another important area to look at when addressing sleep is mental health. Having staff trained in mental health is a good way to ensure that employees who are struggling have someone to turn to within the business. Trained staff can point them in the right direction of services available; whether it be an employee assistance programme (EAP), private medical insurance (PMI) or discounted gym membership - employee benefits can help staff confront a range of issues that may keep them awake at night.

Hill concludes, ‘We’ve all felt the ramifications of a bad night’s sleep before; mood is negatively affected, productivity lowered, and tolerance levels tested. The good news is that there are plenty of things that employers can do to help staff achieve better sleep patterns – which can have a positive effect on them emotionally, physically and the business as a whole. From creating healthy work/life boundaries to signposting staff to additional support services available, good sleep needn’t be a distant dream.

* https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/sleeping-number-hours-night-british-average-6-hours-poll-stress-work-a8336081.html