Sleep and Maximizing Productivity in the Workplace

On the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl let’s have a look at how fatigue affects the workplace.

Up front, let’s recognize that thankfully Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez and the Union Carbide disasters were both rare and extreme.

What are NOT rare nor extreme are the small, everyday problems that occur in every workplace, and for most working people.

How Does Fatigue Affect Productivity in the Workplace?

  • No single organ is affected by lack of sleep more than the brain. The areas of the brain affected are those associated with executive function, decision-making, planning and coordinating, attention span, memory and the ability to focus.
  • Individuals that sleep less than 6 hours are eleven times more likely to have work related errors than those that get 8 hours sleep. Those that get less than 5 hours sleep have an impaired performance comparable to those who are legally drunk.
  • Around 1 in 3 workers have taken a sick day to catch up on sleep, about 43% have arrived late to work because of sleeping in or catching up on sleep, 19% admit to having fallen asleep in a meeting.
  • Recent mental health research reports that on average each employee with depression symptoms will cost their employer $9665 per year, most of which could be recouped.
  • Some sleeping pills have a half life of 30-40 hours. This means that for the full next day at work that person experiences ‘hangover sedation’, with 50-100% of the active components of those pills still affecting and sedating them.
  • Shift workers, at-risk industries (such as the police, emergency workers, transport industry workers, etc) and sleep apnea sufferers show far worse patterns in all areas (including 19% of shift workers saying they have injured themselves or had an accident on the job in the past year).
  • Fatigued workers are also more willing to make hazardous and risky decisions.

The National Sleep Foundation 2008 survey found 65% of Americans experienced sleep problems, with 40% of respondents impatient with others at work, 27% finding it hard to concentrate, 20% admitting to having lower productivity than they expected and 29% having fallen asleep during work because of sleepiness or a sleep problem.

Would Workers be Prepared to Change their Workplace Culture?

A 2010 survey reported 89% of Australian workers are keen to improve their daily routine to achieve a healthier and more balanced lifestyle. The most common area workers would like to do this was more exercise (81%), followed by a healthier diet (66%) and more sleep (60%).

Encouraging findings, given that more exercise and a healthier diet are key components of a better night’s sleep.

In spite of its origins in the 1960s, napping at work is still an underestimated and underutilized resource. This same recent Australian study (mentioned above) highlighted that as many as 62 percent of workers believe a regular 20 minute lunch time nap would make them more motivated and productive in the workplace.

What are the Benefits of Strategic Napping?

  • With napping it was 38% less likely that sleepiness interfered with daytime activities.
  • Napping reduces absenteeism and increases the length of nighttime sleep.
  • It elevates mood, alertness and stamina, increases employee retention, satisfaction, morale and productivity.
  • Learning from a nap is equal to learning from a full night’s sleep.
  • One N.A.S.A. study found an increase in their pilot’s productivity up 34% from a 26 minute nap.

Scientific evidence strongly supports that sleep technology can help maximize productivity and performance.

And of course, the other areas of life that are improved with better sleep include reduced risk of heart disease; lower blood pressure; elevated immune function; lower rates of obesity; increased libido; less stress, depression and anxiety; and better relationships. It is impossible to separate these benefits from the workplace, though “traditionally” some have been.

Sleepless No More’s Productivity Project

Contact Elizabeth if you are interesting in hearing more about applying the “Productivity Project” to your workplace.  Email with PRODUCTIVITY in the subject line.