Six tips to promote better sleep habits

As a nation, we’re not getting enough sleep. Despite the recommended amount being seven to nine hours per night to maintain good health and performance, the average employee gets just 6 hours and 19 minutes.

Intense work schedules, stress and busy lives can all be to blame for sleep falling lower down employees’ priority lists today. And that’s not to mention a reliance on caffeine and sugary stimulants to get many of us through the working day, as well as being glued to our mobile phones.

And this lack of sleep can be just as detrimental to employees’ work performance as it is to their health. How employees’ poor sleep impacts your business Sleep deprivation in employees can cause:

1. Lower productivity - one study found that 70% of sleep deprived employees are unable to focus in meetings and 68% take longer to complete tasks

2. Less creativity - research showed that 65% of sleep deprived employees are unable to come up with original ideas

3. A higher risk of illness - sleep is crucial for good health, and those not getting enough of it can become more susceptible to minor illness, as well as weight gain and fatigue

4. Emotional instability – exhausted employees are likely to become irritable and sensitive, affecting workplace relationships

All of which can cost your business through sickness absence, lost productivity, mistakes and poor employee morale.

Promoting healthy sleep habits amongst employees is crucial in order to minimise these costs and boost your business performance. Here’s how you can help:

What employers can do to promote healthy sleep habits

1. Reduce workplace stress

Stress is one of the main causes of poor sleep, and of course it impacts everybody differently. However, our Mental Health in the Workplace Report found the top three causes of workplace stress were increased workload (38.2%), financial concerns (17.9%) and workplace bulling (9.5%).

So, consider ways to deal with these issues, like training employees around time management and regularly reviewing their workloads. Introduce lunchtime workshops to help educate employees on financial management, and ensure your company has a zero-tolerance anti-bullying policy.

2. Encourage a healthy lifestyle

Eating a healthy balanced diet, and exercising regularly contribute to better quality sleep. Offering healthy options in the work canteen and vending machines, providing free office fruit, discounted gym memberships or cycle to work schemes are all ways you can promote healthier employee lifestyles.

Our article on helping employees to fit exercise into their working lives includes more tips.

3. Educate employees on the benefits of sleep

It’s very easy to de-prioritise sleep if we aren’t fully aware, or reminded of, the benefits it has on all areas of our lives. Especially for those who rely on stimulants such as caffeine to keep them going for hours on end.

Consider running workshops or interactive online courses helping employees to understand the benefits of better sleep and providing tips to help them achieve it.

4. Create a nap space

A short power nap, of between 5-20 minutes is said to be better for you than a caffeine fix - for improving memory, motor skills and perceptual learning.

This short burst is said to be the ideal length for napping, making it easy enough to wake up from and not leaving that post-nap grogginess you may get from a longer sleep.

Many companies have now introduced ‘nap pods’ for these reasons (including Google and Ben & Jerry’s).

If your workspace allows for nap pods or a nap room, it could be worth trying out! 

5. Provide flexibility

If your employees are struggling with sleep, consider allowing them to adjust their start and finish times, or even work from home. This could help them create a healthier sleep cycle and improve their work life balance.

6. Offer professional support  

70% of employees we surveyed for our Mental Health in the Workplace Report said they would use a confidential mental health helpline provided by their employer if they were experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.

For example, a 24/7 EAP helpline comes as standard with Benenden’s Healthcare for Business. Your employees could access professional support and advice about a range of topics that may be affecting their sleep, like relationship worries, employment anxiety and bereavement.

To discover how Benenden Health could support your business with our health and wellbeing services please call 0800 414 8179 or visit our Business Healthcare page.