While it is well-documented that adults require around eight hours of sleep each night, we’ve all been guilty of neglecting this vital aspect of our wellbeing.
More on sleep and productivity:
The effects of bad sleep corrode our productivity, especially at work. The toll of sleep deprivation is not just measured in yawns and heavy eyelids - it is a financial burden we can no longer afford to ignore.
One study found that fatigue-based productivity losses result in almost £1,500 lost each year per employee.
Asana's Work Innovation Lab has also found that better sleep is a catalyst for improved collaboration and productivity.
In an experiment conducted at the lab, improved sleep fuelled a 55% increase in the number of collaborative actions employees performed each day, and a 15% increase in the amount of progress they made throughout the day.
HR teams should play a leading role in promoting and supporting sleep. But make no mistake, it’s a formidable task—a battle against the societal culture that glorifies burnout and idolises perpetual hustle.
Thankfully, there are best practices, techniques, and actionable strategies that HR leaders can use to help leaders and employees understand and embrace the benefits of better sleep.
According to Brian Kuna of Johns Hopkins University, doing this effectively involves two intertwined elements: encouraging sleep and enabling sleep.
When it comes to encouraging healthier sleep habits, HR teams must weave a tapestry of awareness and understanding.
They need to lead conversations about how and why sleep should be prioritised within their organisation.
There are several concrete ways HR and business leaders can encourage good sleep habits:
- Lead by example
Jeff Bezos has explained that he prioritises getting eight hours of sleep each night.
As a prominent global business leader, his example sets a powerful tone.
HR teams can play a key role in encouraging leaders to actively emphasise the critical role that sleep plays in driving work effectiveness and discuss how they prioritise a good night’s sleep even amid looming deadlines and competing priorities.
- Inject sleep into conversations
HR leaders should encourage leaders within their organisations to infuse sleep into conversations.
For example, they can embolden leaders to use phrases like “Hi (employee), I saw your name pop up in my notifications last night well after working hours. I wanted to remind you that you are never under any obligation to respond to work messaging once you’ve logged off for the day.”
- Build new norms and practices at work
HR professionals can help leaders discourage early or late-night meetings, allow flexible start times for at least part of the week, promote asynchronous work where possible, and establish norms such as not needing to respond to messages after a certain hour.
Merely encouraging sleep is not enough, HR leaders must also help enable it.
Enabling sleep is the actionable partner to encouraging it. There are several ways that HR leaders can help enable better sleep for employee:
- Run a voluntary, opt-in sleep competition
Many workplaces encourage exercise competitions with rewards, for example logging the most steps in a month.
Encouraging a similar style of competition that incentives employees to monitor their sleep is a lightweight way to set a positive precedent.
- Implement sleep improvement apps for your employees
There are lots of sleep trackers out there, but leading HR teams will look for specific features to get the most out of their investment.
Employers should offer apps that both track sleep patterns and offer employees actionable ways to improve their sleep. Data without direction has limited value.
- Invest in nap rooms
Even 20-minute naps have been shown to boost learning and information retention.
The restorative nature of naps can also help when learning new skills at work or when tackling a particularly challenging problem that warrants creative thinking.
We all need sleep, so why don’t we talk about it?
Sleep has traditionally been confined to our ‘private’ lives.
But we can no longer think of our professional lives as completely separate from our personal lives, especially when it comes to sleep. The connection is inextricably linked.
With the uncertain macroeconomic situation putting extra strain on employees and increasing workplace fatigue, there’s never been a more important time for leaders to build sleep into HR programs.
HR teams can and should hold the torch and illuminate the path toward a future where sleep is treasured, not traded.
Rebecca Hinds is head of the Work Innovation Lab at work management platform Asana.