It is widely known that proper sleep is important for individual health. It also shouldn’t be a surprise that employees need sleep too! In fact, employee sleep quality directly impacts a company’s bottom line. According to “Why sleep matters” by RAND Europe, lack of sleep costs the U.S economy about $411 billion in lost productivity. That’s a high price to pay just to stare at the ceiling.
It is important for employers to realize that work might be keeping employees up at night. A study revealed that high work demands and physical effort at work are two of the main risk indicators for poor sleep. The inability to stop thinking about work during free time creates mental stress that prevents employees from fully relaxing and unwinding.
Despite its importance and advancements in technology, measuring and determining sleep quality is not easy. There’s a debate about whether consumer sleep tracking technology is accurate enough to be effective since most are based on data from accelerometers. To get a clear and clinically accurate picture of sleep, employees would need to make a trip to a sleep clinic overnight. This is not very practical to incorporate into an employer wellness program. Because sleep is not easily quantified, sleep duration is usually not a part of most wellness challenges. However, just because an employer cannot make a competition out of it or track it easily, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to help employees in other ways. Below are four science-based methods employers can do at work to boost employee sleep quality.
#1 Encourage Physical Activity
If there’s anything more satisfying than the post-workout endorphin rush, it’s the good night sleep that follows. In fact, one study calls exercising “an evidence-based intervention to improve perceived and objective metrics of sleep in healthy individuals.” There are various pathways through which a good workout can positively influence shut-eye time. For instance, rigorous physical activities reduce stress and tire you out, making falling asleep faster and easier. Afternoon workouts also raise body temperatures then allow it to cool slightly, which triggers sleepiness. This cooling down effect is also the reason why taking a warm bath or drinking decaffeinated hot tea puts you to sleep like a baby.
There are many ways you can encourage physical activity at work. For instance, 30-minute onsite classes in the afternoon help employee shake things off and unwind. Even just short bursts of group movements such as stair-climbing and jumping jacks at the desk can work wonderfully. Need ideas for a quick office workout? Check out our board!
#2 Mindfulness Meditation
Although meditation seems to be strictly mental, it affects practitioners on deep physical levels. For instance, studies have shown that seasoned meditators have more gray matter in their brain. In fact, after only eight weeks into the routine, one can see development in brain volume in five different regions of the brain (posterior cingulate, left hippocampus, TPJ, pons, and amygdala). This development translates to better learning, cognition, memory, empathy, and emotional regulation, all of which are great qualities in the office. It also reduces stress as well as allows employees to fall asleep easier and sleep deeper. Imagine for a second, who do you prefer to work with? The team player who is always full of energy with great capabilities to learn and retain information or a groggy, tired, grumpy, and disconnected employee?
There are many ways you can introduce meditation to your company. If limited budget is a concern, try tapping into the free resources online for guided-meditation. Should you want to take one step further, hiring an instructor for structured lessons can be a great way to increase employees’ interest and engagement.
Want to make a challenge out of it? Some applications are integrated with Apple Health and Google Fit, which allow managers to keep track of participants’ “mindful minutes.” A “Mindful March” campaign doesn’t sound half bad after all.
#3 AN.T! (Adult Nap Time)
It might sound outrageous to pay somebody to sleep, but allowing nap time at work may actually boost productivity. This is because humans are naturally biphasic sleepers and tend to experience two dips in energy level throughout the day – one around 2 AM to 6 AM and one from 1 PM to 4 PM. Allowing your employees to nap will give them a chance to refresh and wake up with clearer, more rested minds. A NASA study on military astronauts and pilots showed that a short 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%!
If you are intrigued by the idea of providing a nap room for employees, you are not alone. Companies like Zappos, Deloitte, Google, Nike, and Ben & Jerry’s recognize the importance of keeping employees awake by letting them rest when the nap monster hits. As an alternative for tight spaces, nap pods become the haven for employees to get some shut-eye.
Don’t have the budget for those fancy nap pods either? Invest in a comfortable couch, a.k.a., the classic nap-inducer everybody knows and loves. Click on this link to learn more about workplace naps.
#4 Promoting Work-life Balance
Work-life balance is not a buzz word; it is crucial to regulate employee stress and sleep quality. Studies have shown that employers “damage their employees’ well-being and work-life balance and weaken job performance when they create expectations that work-related emails should be monitored and responded to during non-work hours.” Of course, this is not just about having to constantly hit the refresh button. Responding to work emails brings their minds back to the working state, reminding employees of the stress they face during the day.
This relates to the very first point: the inability to stop thinking about work keeps employees up at night. The reverse is also true: improved work-life balance allows people to enjoy work more while they are at it. Employees know this, and they are actively seeking out companies that know where to draw the line. The take-home lesson? Work ends when employees leave the office so learn to let them be.