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How sleep can support productivity

Our research found only 6% of people saying they get a good night’s sleep every night, and 23% saying they never do. Poor sleep can significantly impact our cognitive, emotional and physical health is troubling news for UK businesses.

Thankfully, there are things you can do as an employer to support your employees in sleeping well. In this article we’ll cover the challenges of poor sleep, how it affects your team’s productivity, and our five top tips for helping your employees sleep better.

The challenges of poor sleep

Poor sleep impacts most people at various points in their lives. As part of our most recent sleep study, we spoke to 2,000 UK adults and found 85% of them had experienced trouble sleeping in the past month alone. Of those, 28% struggled to sleep due to anxious thoughts, and 16% due to worries about the cost of living crisis.

A lack of sleep can lead to daily struggles with fatigue, low mood, poor concentration, a weakened immune system and in some instances anxiety and depression. All factors which can reduce a person’s ability to live well and be productive. We found that almost 3 out of 4 of people have been negatively impacted by poor sleep within a 4 week period. Of these, 23% reported experiencing anxiety and 22% problems with concentration. We also found that the negative impact of poor sleep affects younger, working age groups more than it does those aged 55 and over. At work, sleep deprivation makes manageable tasks feel more difficult, and therefore they can take longer to complete.

What’s more, shift workers or anyone working non-traditional hours may be uniquely impacted by sleep issues, in what has been described as Shift Work Sleep Disorder. These employees are at a greater risk of experiencing a lack of energy, slower reaction times and irritability, caused by lack of sleep. Depending on the industry, this could create dangerous working conditions.

How does this affect business productivity?

Research organisation Rand estimates that sleep deprivation costs the UK economy £40 billion annually. That’s the equivalent of 200,000 working days lost each year due to poor productivity and employee absence.

We know that sleep disruption can be caused by stress which in turn, reduces productivity. Kings College London have identified that those who’ve found the pandemic stressful are more than twice as likely to report trouble sleeping.

More than ever, businesses are innovating ways in which to support their people in sleeping well and nurture greater wellbeing for their workforce.

Five things you can do to help employees sleep better

1. Encourage a healthy lifestyle

A nutrient-rich diet and regular exercise can help people sleep better. Go beyond simply providing healthy choices in the canteen (though this is a good place to start) by creating running or walking clubs, hosting lunchtime yoga or meditation sessions, and sponsoring charity walks for employees to get involved in. Make sure that the as a business, promoting healthy lifestyle choices is a priority.

If you offer Benenden Healthcare for Business to your employees, they can take part in free fitness and wellbeing classes, plus have access to healthy recipes and nutrition tips via the Benenden Health App.

2. Encourage people to switch off

Hybrid working is here to stay for lots of people. And while many have found the right balance, there is a risk of burnout for people struggling to switch off when working from home. When it comes to sleep aids, 39% of UK adults say they have to use things like pillow sprays, meditative music, earplugs, sleep trackers and more to help them drift off at night.

For those in desk-based roles, reminding your staff to take regular screen breaks and fully recharge will enhance their overall wellbeing, and therefore support a healthy sleep schedule. At night, 28% say they only put their phone down right before they want to go to sleep – which may be disrupting their ability to switch off. Some employers choose to send their staff occasional self-care and wellbeing packages to actively promote rest and relaxation. Plus, the importance of encouraging your team to take their annual leave entitlement as well can’t be avoided. Encourage your peers to take well deserved time to recharge.

3. Signpost external support

Sleep deprivation can be caused by physical or mental health problems. And for mental health issues, a lack of sleep can make symptoms worse – creating a negative cycle.

Offering third party support could be the best way to tackle poor health in the workplace. Our research found that 7 out of 10 employees worry about discussing their health at work, and many choose to hide their health problems from their employers. With mental health making up 18.6% of all employee health problems, an external wellbeing partner could be the solution.

As part of Benenden Healthcare for Business, your employees will have 24/7 access to our Mental Health Helpline, where they can talk through issues impacting their quality of sleep in confidence. Plus with access to our 24/7 GP support, your employees can call our helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to book an appointment for a telephone or video consultation.

4. Provide greater flexibility

Empowering people to manage their own work schedules can help them avoid burnout and stress. For example, offering flexible hours, whee possible, means people can manage the demands of their job around their needs. Such as child or family care, or getting to an early morning (or late afternoon) yoga class. Flexible work patterns give people the option of more regular breaks too, or time away from their desk as and when they see fit.

5. Offer a sleep management programme

If you feel the need is great enough, consider a sleep management programme. This may sound formal, but in practice it could mean simply providing workshops, interactive online courses, and proactively talking to your employers about the importance of sleep and how to improve it.

We’re a mutual society and have been providing healthcare since 1905. We are passionate about improving the quality of our members’ lives and as a not-for-profit organisation we exist for the sole benefit of our members.

There’s nothing better than a good night’s sleep for the wellbeing of your team and your business. For more information about how our services can help support your organisation, speak to one of our friendly team on 0808 239 8582 or via email at


Our business healthcare

Benenden Healthcare for Business provides an affordable, high quality, private healthcare solution to support all your employees. With easy setup and no exclusions on pre-existing medical conditions, we want to help make healthcare a standard of employment for everyone, rather than just a perk for the few. See how we can help you develop a healthcare solution that works for your whole business.