The cost of sleep deprivation on economy
In some organisations, seeing employees with tired bags under their eyes is a sign that they are hardworking people dedicated to the work that they do. In countries like Japan, being seen dozing off at a meeting or while sitting at your desk can also be seen as a sign of professional diligence. Sleeplessness in a person at work seems to stem from a working culture that suggests if you are working hard and sacrificing your sleep to do it, then you are doing something right.
On the flip, there are others who think that the siesta is the best way to approach workplace and productivity and efficiency, because it is understood culturally that getting enough sleep makes a huge difference on the employee’s ability to work. Poor sleep has been shown to be linked to seven of the most common leading causes of death in the United States alone, but those numbers are just as steep in other countries. The International Agency for Research on Cancer even labels shift work that requires irregular overnight hours as a potential carcinogen as well.
When employees aren’t sleeping well, it takes a toll on every part of their waking lives, and that obviously includes their professional lives. Sleep deprivation makes it harder for employees to do their best at work because of groggy minds and exhausted bodies, and while that is bad enough on a personal front, it is even worse for the company that usually lauds these traits in their “hardworking, dedicated employees.” Across the world, corporations suffer due to the sleep deprivation of their employees. In the United States alone, the economy loses between $280 billion and $411 billion annually to absenteeism and health issues from sleep deprivation. Japan loses around $138 billion annually with 600,000 lost workdays, where Germany loses as much as $60 billion. The United Kingdom loses around 600,000 workdays, costing $50 billion, and bringing up the rear on lost revenue is Canada that loses up to $21 billion each year.
There are a number of contributing factors for those who lose their sleep, especially those who work typical 9-to-5 jobs. Employees who face shifting schedules and unrealistic time pressure lose an approximate eight minutes of sleep a night compared to those who don’t experience that. Those who are underpaid or otherwise struggling financially often average ten minutes less sleep each night. If employees have a bad commute, around 16 minutes are lost, while people who have children to worry about on top of work lose another four. These small numbers may not seem like much, but every minute counts, and it really adds up.
Fortunately, the solution to this could be as simple as small changes that try to help employees get just a little more sleep each night. Those who get under six hours are encouraged to at least get six or seven, and it can be achieved through limiting the use of substances like alcohol and caffeine that reduce the ability to sleep. Stopping electronic use long before bed can also help. Suggesting better sleep habits to your employees and helping to create an environment that facilitates that isn’t just only kind; it may very well save you billions of dollars in lost labor.