Present but Not Productive

To be more productive, get more sleep

Have you ever gone to work tired and sleep deprived? According to the National Sleep Foundation in the U.S., 38.5% of employees go to work feeling exhausted every day, and employee health assessments indicate that as many as 70% of employees report that they don’t get enough sleep or are often tired at work.

While we may have gone to work tired or have seen colleagues struggle with sleepiness and fatigue, this state is dismissed as simply a consequence of our busy and demanding lives. Some may even promote sleepiness and fatigue as a badge of honour, demonstrating dedication to work.

Insufficient sleep causes reduced energy and an increase in poor judgement and errors. You may be present at work, but you are not productive.

In a society where we dedicate every waking hour to getting things done — paramount to worshiping at the altar of productivity — we deny ourselves the one thing that is fundamental to being productive: sleep.

How can organizations and employees ensure adequate sleep on a daily basis?

1. Increased awareness
It starts with a change of attitude about sleep and why we need it. In our eorts to keep up in a world of never-ending demands, we forgo sleep because we view it as unproductive. But when we sleep, we are physically, mentally and emotionally regenerated. It is this regeneration that gives us energy and makes us able to undertake the tasks of the day. Sucient sleep makes us healthier and more productive.Employers should consider including education about sleep and sleep disorders in wellness programs. Many wellness initiatives focus on weight management, exercise and smoking cessation. Yet sleep is also essential to weight management and our motivation to exercise.

2. Time out from technology
Electronic devices can be “on” 24/7, however the expectation that we will respond to those devices when “on” is unrealistic and unproductive. Consider a technology time-out between 10pm and 6am with all devices turned off or left outside of the bedroom during this time.

3. Flexible scheduling
Employees are diverse in their circadian rhythms and sleep schedules, as well as their family and personal needs. Flexible schedules accommodate employees to better manage these needs and also sleep at physiologically appropriate times. The results are increased concentration on work tasks and higher productivity.

4. Hours of work
Do you really need overtime and extended hours of work? Extended work limits the time employees have for personal and family tasks, which still need to get done. This is a no-win situation for both the organization and the employee.Overtime, extended hours and shift work may be necessary, but managing total work time and schedules to ensure that employees have enough time for their personal and family tasks, as well as sleep, is fundamental to ensuring productivity.

5. Nap time
Consider providing a nap room. Though some employers may object to paying employees to sleep at work, it’s a fact that tired employees are currently being paid to sleepwalk through their work anyway. Organizations like Apple, Nike, Procter & Gamble, HootSuite and Intuit in Canada have learned that nap rooms and napping policies are an investment in productivity and safety.

Tired employees are less productive and have lower levels of engagement. They are sick more often, miss more work, have more accidents and injuries and make more mistakes. Organizations that don’t recognize this pay for it through loss in productivity and diminished performance, as well as absenteeism and costs associated with drug, health and benefit plans.

If you want employees to be present and productive, take action to help them get the sleep they need to unleash their energy for health and performance excellence.


Carolyn Schur helps organizations reduce absenteeism and health costs by promoting sleep, health and well-being. She provides practical tools to reduce sleepiness, stress, conflict and fatigue and unleash energy for health and performance excellence. www.schurgoode.com

Originally published in volume 16 issue 6 of Your Workplace magazine.

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