Forward-thinking employers are treating employees that suffer from sleep deprivation in the same way they would an employee with an illness, according to RedArc Nurses ahead of The Sleep Council’s National Bed Month in March. RedArc advises all employers to be aware that their employees’ poor quality or quantity of sleep is within their jurisdiction and that it can be tackled via both physical and emotional support.
The importance of a good night’s shut eye has been recognised for some time now, but the considerable knock-on effects that poor sleeping has in the workplace are only just becoming acknowledged: research firm Rand Europe calculates that the UK economy lost 200,000 working days a year to sleep deprivation last year costing £40 billion, or 1.86 per cent of GDP.
And employers are looking to address this. According to research from Rewards and Employee Benefits Association (REBA) in conjunction with Punter Southall Health & Protection, the number of organisations including sleeping within their wellbeing strategy is set to more than double (from 42 per cent to 88 per cent) in the next few years.
Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc says, ‘At the extreme end of the scale, employees who are lacking in sleep are susceptible to workplace accidents – and that can be potentially hazardous for people who operate machinery or drive during the course of their work.
‘At the other end of the scale, anyone who is sleep deprived is more prone to make mistakes and poor decision-making, which ultimately can have an impact on the individual’s productivity and performance – as well as that of the employer. This in turn can lead on to more serious issues such as work-related stress, anxiety and absenteeism.’
Lisa Artis of The Sleep Council, says, ‘Chronic sleeping debt can have a seriously damaging effect on our mental and physical health and research shows that lack of sleep erodes concentration and problem-solving ability. Each hour of sleep lost per night is associated with a temporary loss of one IQ point and did you know that if a worker loses just one night of sleep, his cognitive ability is roughly the same as being over the legal alcohol limit?’
Most common cause of insufficient or poor quality employee sleep, is stress
RedArc’s experience of dealing with employees with sleep-related problems highlights that the most common reason for a poor night is stress. While the company always advocates self help initially – such as improving diet and exercise – sometimes a more targeted approached is required to tackle the route cause of stress, which in turn eliminates the sleep problem.
The other causes of the most severe cases of sleep deprivation
- Mental health problems
- New parenthood
- Hormonal changes
- Shift work
- Sleep apnoea
- Some medications
Husbands continues, ‘The working culture in the UK is changing and employers are becoming much more aware of how ‘outside of work’ influencers, affect the working lives of their staff.
‘Sleeping issues are not going to go away fast – particularly in our 24/7, ‘switched-on’ society – and employers that support their staff in getting to the bottom of why they aren’t getting the right quantity or quality of rest will benefit.’
Many employers are now selecting group insurances that provide third-party support for their staff – which can include help with sleep deprivation. As well as providing the emotional support needed during long periods of poor rest, these services can also provide complementary therapies such as reflexology and acupuncture usually at no cost to the employee or employer.
RedArc’s research shows that employers who provide such services engender a feeling of loyalty amongst staff and that these services improve staff health and wellbeing, increase retention and reduce absence.