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The Healthiest Workplace Survey* for 2019 showed that 46% of Sri Lankan respondents were getting 6 hours or less sleep each night, though the optimal sleep time for health and productivity is considered to be a minimum of 7 hours.
But, unless your employees are falling asleep at their desks, isn’t sleep a part of their home life? , Isn’t it outside the workplace? So is it really something employers need to care about?
The simple answer is Yes. And not just for a kumbaya, feel good HR marketing gimmick that has no value. How well rested your employees are has a direct impact on productivity, innovation, learning and teamwork, all of which contributes to that all important bottom line.
So how does sleep affect work?
Improved productivity, reduced procrastination
Sleep deprivation directly impairs employees ability to maintain attention and focus. As well as their ability to make decisions. Quality sleep on the other hand has been linked to improvements in everything from focus to problem solving, energy levels, efficiency cognitive skills and other higher-level brain functions – enabling employees to be present, efficient and effective.
Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked with a variety of health issues ranging from chronic fatigue to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and even dementia. It goes without saying that employees suffering from health issues will be less engaged at work and require more days off.
Increased creativity and learning
Research has continually shown that sleep deprivation can impair cognitive skills including creative thinking and the ability to problem solve. Another factor we are not often aware of is the role sleep plays in long term memory – sleep being the time when our brains consolidate newly acquired facts and information. As such, proper sleep ensures the retention of knowledge needed for work and vastly improves one’s ability to solve problems and innovate.
Better workplace safety
Sleep deprivation can lead to episodes of micro-sleep at work. Micro-sleep is your body’s emergency stop button forcing you to take some rest resulting in half a second to ten second lapses in consciousness. At the simplest level, this leads to difficulty focusing, but depending on the work a person is engaged in this can result in serious workplace accidents or injury.
Teamwork & Morale
Research shows that sleep-loss affects the brain’s prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that is responsible for social behavior and we all know that lack of sleep can make us irritable and grumpy. In contrast, employees who are well-rested will enjoy better mental and emotional wellbeing, which can also lead to better relationships between coworkers. A happier workforce is a more productive workforce.
These are some of the reasons why sleep is a key pillar in any successful HR strategy to develop a healthier, happier and more productive workforce.
So, what can you do to help your employees break their unhealthy sleep cycle? The Healthiest Workplace Survey also looked into what employers are currently doing and what has worked.
The results showed that many Sri Lankan companies are offering 1 of the 5 sleep interventions asked about in the survey. However the disconnect seems to be in awareness, with only 6.8% of respondents actually being aware of the interventions on offer.
Interestingly 73.3% of individuals who were aware of the intervention took advantage of the programme and 86.1% of people taking part in the interventions reported a positive impact on their health and wellbeing.
The numbers speak for themselves in terms of employees’ willingness to engage in such programmes and the resulting benefits.
The lack of awareness amongst employees of programmes already available within their organisations, highlight a lackluster commitment from management in really pushing these programmes forward.
The Healthiest Workplace Survey is aimed at empowering businesses and HR leaders with information on how employee wellbeing truly effects their organisations and providing information that will help you develop better policies in this regard.
The results show quite simply that sleep is a significant issue impacting the Sri Lankan workforce but also that simple interventions can make a significant impact on this issue. What seems to be lacking is genuine support and backing from the management in implementing these interventions in a meaningful way.
*Healthiest Workplace by AIA Vitality is an annual survey encompassing Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand; the 2019 survey engaged 426 organisations, representing a combined workforce of 26,456 employees. In Sri Lanka 47 organisations with a combined workforce of 2,137 employees participated in the survey. The study was developed by AIA Group Corporate Solutions (GCS) and is delivered in partnership with RAND Europe.