How Much Is Poor Sleep Costing Your Company?

American workers are getting about 1.5 less hours of sleep each night compared to just a few decades ago, and at least one-third of all workers are chronically sleep-deprived, according to an article in Inc.

What is all this sleep deprivation doing to their job performance? “One study found insomnia causes the equivalent of 11.3 lost days of productivity annually,” the article notes. “Tally that up, and it amounts to more than $63 billion in lost productivity across the nation each year.”

Of course, lost productivity isn’t the only negative outcome of sleep deprivation. The National Sleep Foundation reports that highly sleepy workers are 70% more likely to be involved in accidents than non-sleepy workers. Equally alarming, poor sleep habits can have devastating consequences on employee health—consequences that can cost employers dearly, particularly those with self-funded healthcare plans. These consequences include higher blood pressure, increased risks for diabetes and heart disease, and a weakened immune system, among others.

The obvious question is … what can your organization do to combat sleep deprivation and its costly outcomes?

Novel Ideas Worth Sleeping On
One thing you might consider, which may seem counterintuitive at first, is to encourage employees to sleep on the job. Well, catnap is more accurate. Google, Huffington Post, and Mercedes-Benz Financial Services are just three companies among many that have taken this step and report positive results. Each of these companies actually provides employees with access to nap pods—specially designed stations where they’re free to catch a few Zs and re-energize during their workday.

Before you dismiss the notion of sleep pods, keep in mind that a CareerBuilder survey of more than 3,200 workers found one in five has called in sick just to get some extra shut-eye, and 43% have caught a coworker sleeping on the job. In light of these realities, in-office naps don’t seem so outlandish. Indeed, roughly 40% of respondents to the CareerBuilder survey said they would take advantage of a nap room if their employers offered one.

As the Inc. article points out, nap pods are just one way a growing number of U.S. companies are addressing the sleep deprivation epidemic. Aetna provides monetary incentives to employees so they get at least seven hours of sleep nightly. Goldman Sachs hires trainers to educate employees about the importance of sleep. And Johnson & Johnson provides coaching programs to help employees combat insomnia.

Another step employers are taking is to address the stress that often underlies insomnia and poor sleep. Helping employees prioritize tasks, ensuring they have the tools and information required to do their jobs, and offering them flexible work schedules can go a long way toward reducing the workplace stress that leads to poor sleep. An Entrepreneur article highlights other ways employers can reduce stress such as cutting down on emails and meetings, providing employees with time to recharge (and enforcing use of these days/times off), and ensuring that employees’ work schedules are reasonable (e.g., capping the number of work hours per week).

Encouraging Healthy Sleep Habits at Your Company

Encouraging Healthy Sleep Habits at Your Company
If you’re open to launching an initiative to encourage healthy sleep habits among your employees, here’s a partial list of suggestions to consider from the Wellness Council of America:

  • Make the entire c-suite aware of the prevalence and impacts of poor sleep and workplace fatigue. Get their buy-in on combating the problem.
  • Review your organization’s work and flexibility policies, then work with relevant departments and functional areas to revise the policies as warranted.
  • Publicize the updated policies and follow up with applicable departments to ensure they are being followed.
  • Implement a sound sleep solution or program that includes both cognitive behavioral therapy and training that enables employees to overcome habitual and emotional roadblocks to better sleep habits.
  • Provide regular sleep education workshops to the entire workforce.
  • Include fatigue as a prominent topic in your safety sessions, and share fatigue risk factors in your newsletters and other communications.
  • Make educational materials available to your entire workforce.
  • Incorporate activities like sleep disorder screenings and a sleep management course into your wellness program. Consider incentivizing them when appropriate.

Interested in reading more about the impact of sleep on workplace productivity? Check out the fascinating study of nearly 600,000 workers published in the American Journal of Health Promotion. It will not only help you understand exactly what’s at stake for you and your employees, but it can be a tremendous asset in helping you build a business case for a results-based sleep initiative.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can support your workforce and their unique needs, contact us here or call us at (866) 675-3751.