Can sleep affect employee productivity?
For a very long time, we focused on sleep disorders and not general sleep problems. Sleep disorders undoubtedly has its impact on employee well being and productivity, but they may go unnoticed or will be tolerated by the affected. General sleep problems precipitated initially by inadequate sleep behaviors may ultimately lead to sleep disorders with insomnia and sleep apnea leading the march. While it is very well documented that inadequate sleep has an immediate consequence of reduced work performance, absenteeism, presenteeism, reduced alertness levels, risk of accidents and injuries depending on the industry you are involved in, long term consequences include chronic diseases, stress, poor dietary habits, low level of physical activities, mental health issues etc.
So, what’s in it for the employer? Well, taking a no-nonsense approach, a well-rested employee is an asset and a sleep deprived and tired employee is a liability. The core areas where sleep has a profound impact are energy, memory, decision making abilities, creativity, physical and mental health.
Sleep & energy
There are various theories on why we sleep, although we are aware of the many benefits of sleep. The 2 theories that stand out are the energy conservative theory and the restorative theory, when we look at sleep through the prism of performance. Sleep decreases a person’s energy metabolism and conserves it for when it is more needed. Sleep allows the body time to heal and grow both physically and mentally ensuring both physical well being and mental health.
Sleep & memory
Almost all aspects of our existence rely on our memory to be efficient in our personal and professional life. Right from remembering the morning meetings, to calling out the data from your memory while presenting to your board of management, to return a call to a customer, you rely on your memory performance and there is no need to mention the occasion when you didn’t sleep well and struggled through a task where it was critical to have your short term and long term memory on standby.
Sleep & decision making
Sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on the quality of the decisions you are making regardless of your technical expertise, skill set, training and experience. The routine automatic decisions are very sensitive to sleep loss, and the complex decision making may be a little more robust but not infallible. Also, if a high risk, high reward decision is to be made, sleep deprived individuals become less concerned with the negative consequences of the decision.
The benefits of sleep is unequivocal and focusing on it is a worthwhile investment, for the simple reason that it shapes your very identity as a human and equips you for better personal and professional growth.