Ask any hard-pressed employee how they are genuinely feeling and there is an 80% chance they will tell you they are tired and never seem able to catch up on their sleep. One-third of our life is taken up by sleeping and all the evidence suggests getting enough of it is critical to our health and wellbeing.
While workplace health initiatives that focus on aspects such as diet and exercise are fairly commonplace in employee wellbeing programmes, interventions to support staff getting better quality sleep are unusual. This is somewhat surprising given the strong evidence that staff are less productive and more prone to make mistakes, act unsafely and fall ill if they are sleep deprived.
Sleep management programmes can take a variety of different guises; they can come in the form of educative training made available via workshops or accessed online. Or they can have a physical presence such as installed sleeping pods or on-site mini-bedrooms where fatigued staff can go for a restorative nap.
Sleep programmes can be cast in both preventative and remedial health camps. However, wherever they sit in an organisation’s health framework, they will only succeed if there is an established wellbeing culture. By this, I mean senior leadership actively supports them, their managers are able to signpost them, they are easy to access, they are evaluated for impact and the actual content, whatever the format, is relevant to the workforce in question.
Top-flight athletes make sleep a priority in their daily training routines. As Usain Bolt once said: “Sleep is extremely important to me; I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body.” If this is normal operating procedure for sporting professionals, we can certainly expect to see more sleep initiatives being introduced for our own weary corporate athletes.
Dr Bridget Juniper is director at health data consultancy Work and Wellbeing