Sleeping at Work: Why You Should Help Improve Employees’ Sleep

5 min read

Last Modified 15 September 2023 First Added 1 November 2019

By Jessica Kadel

Work performance and sleep quality go hand in hand as your slumber has a vital effect on your brain function and many body systems.

A power nap can really improve cognitive function, helping you concentrate on that all-important deadline and remember everything on your to-do list.

Throughout China and Asia, naptime culture is widely accepted. In Spain, they have ‘siestas’ – a short snooze in the middle of the day. And not forgetting Japan where inemuri (“sleeping while present”), the practice of napping at school or work, is a sign of hard work. What about the UK? Well, worktime snoozes have not yet become a phenomenon. But that’s not to say they shouldn’t be. Let’s look at some sleep data to understand why…

Work desk with leather chair

The 2022 UK Sleep Study

Our recent sleep study revealed that 37% of people said that getting a good night’s sleep is important to them as “it helps me perform well at work”. Worryingly, only 5% of respondents said they wake up feeling refreshed in the morning because:

  • 34% said it’s because of stress
  • 34% said it’s because they are too hot
  • 27% are struggling to get comfortable
  • 24% said they are nervous about something the next day
  • 23% are worried about money
  • 17% said it’s because they are worried about work

As you can see, we are a nation of poor sleepers. While there is a lot an individual can do to improve their much-need shuteye, there are many ways employers can aid in sleeping at work. Especially now working from home is the new norm and daytime naps are accessible with our beds just a few steps away from our home office. Maybe a ‘napping at work’ scheme will do the trick or even just diminish the sleep stigma and give employees the time and space to rest if needed.

Our sleep survey did in fact find that the average number of hours spent working from bed each week has increased by 210% since 2016. After a poor night’s kip, how many of you have been tempted to have a few zzz’s during a workday? Be honest… we won’t tell!

The 2019 Sleep Better Study

Our 2019 study was conducted with the Clinical Sleep Research Unit at Loughborough University to discover how well the nation was sleeping. Similarly to our 2022 sleep study, the 2019 study found that three in four employees in the UK suffer from persistent sleep problems and 78% of workers have experienced consistent periods of poor sleep. This is even to the point where 54% struggle to stay awake the following day. A quarter added that their sleep problems mean they cannot complete the work they had planned. On average, this led to two sick days being taken off per year to make up for lost slumber.

Despite the obvious national lack of sleep, talking about it at work seemed to be frowned upon. A huge 69% of employees had never spoken about feeling tired with their employer and two-thirds of business leaders (63%) felt it is an individual’s responsibility, not the company’s, to manage their level of sleep. So much so, that only 3% of businesses have sleep policies in place.

The benefits of sleeping at work initiatives

Both of our sleep studies reveal a clear necessity to prioritise sleep amongst employees. The findings show that acting and introducing sleep initiatives in the workplace would have a positive effect on the following:

Productivity: 34% of people surveyed said they feel more productive and achieve more at work after a good night’s sleep. Moreover, a quarter said they complete tasks more efficiently and that their work was more accurate.

Company culture: Almost a fifth (17%) say they have more positive interactions with colleagues after a good night’s sleep.

Talent attraction and retention: Having sleep initiatives in place is also more likely to increase interest in a role, with 24% being more likely to accept a role at a company with a good sleep policy. A third (33%) also said they would be less likely to look elsewhere if their company offered sleep support.

How to improve employees’ sleep

There are numerous things that your business can do to encourage better sleep habits including health training for managers, looking to recognise the employees that are struggling with sleep, and creating an atmosphere where they feel confident to ask for help.

On top of that, simple changes such as encouraging discussions about sleep and discouraging out-of-hours working will help employees feel at ease. Create a culture where employees feel they can take a day off sick if needed. According to Glassdoor, 61% of employees would rather work when ill instead of having a day off. Does this sound like you? Introducing flexitime and allowing employees an occasional lie-in can also go a long way in creating trust with your staff.

If you want to go the extra mile, consider creating comfy resting spaces for napping in your work environment. Think quiet rooms, meditation areas and cosy bedrooms. Google has famously installed sleep pods allowing staff to clock off when needed. Other renowned companies such as Ben & Jerry’s and Nike provide spaces for employees to meditate and nap. Establishing designated rest places can aid employees in recharging their batteries throughout the day, whether they choose to snooze or simply relax. In turn, employers will have a happier, more productive team ready to do the job at hand.

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