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Are Remote Workers Getting Even Less Sleep?

Having 7 hours of sleep a night results in a healthier lifestyle and greater productivity throughout the day, so why are so many employees still struggling to justify getting enough sleep?

Vitality’s, Britain’s Healthiest Workplace Survey (2019) found that 35.1% of employees admit to sleeping less than seven hours per night; with a staggering 42% having issues with sleep quality and 61% experiencing fatigueat least once per week. Although the importance of sleep on workplace productivity cannot be underestimated in terms of learning, communicating and concentrating, lack of sleep is having a detrimental impact on an even wider scale, with the survey highlighting that those who did not get enough sleep were more likely to be battling mental health problems, faced greater struggles with weight gain and poor dietary habits, and had a higher chance of smoking.

It is increasingly common for individuals to track sleep quality through technology, for example through the use of an Apple Watch, Oura or Fitbit, and this greater awareness comes with it a desire to make positive changes to lifestyle choices. However, culture in the workplace often makes a personal commitment of getting 7 hours of sleep per night extremely difficult, or even impossible, when it should be seen as a wellbeing priority.

Given that many employees are currently working from home due to the global pandemic, naturally, many are experiencing a blurring of work-personal boundaries and are struggling to define when work should begin and end each day. Smart devices and endless apps allow employees to access work 24/7, but this can be problematic. Whilst home working takes the often length commute out of the picture and allows for another hour or so in bed in the morning, it can also result in employees failing to switch off, which can have a negative impact on sleeping patterns alongside other aspects of personal life. According to research by RAND Europe, poor sleep costs the UK around £30bn a year with 200,000 working days being lost as a result of this, so why are employers shooting themselves in the foot by allowing employees to access work systems around the clock? The problem here is that those working for international firms are often collaborating with team members in a different geographical location and time zones, but employers should focus on limiting work systems to ensure that employees are finding the time to switch off from work.

There are several ways that employers and employees can tackle sleep deprivation in the workplace:

  1. Allowing flexible start and finish times to suit international teams. This means that the day and night can be better structured so that personal life is not negatively impacted, and a healthy sleeping pattern can be achieved.
  2. Create a dedicated workplace and don’t let the bed or the couch lure you in – this means that at the end of the working day, you can look forward to getting comfortable under the sheets. Make sure to clear this space at the end of the working day to ensure a clear separation of home and work.
  3. The provision of a sleep consultant for employees to understand how to make the changes needed to get more sleep, can have a positive impact on mental and physical wellbeing.
  4. Some companies have recognized the benefits of installing nap pods in the office for when long commutes, early mornings and late nights are necessary - companies such as Google and Nike are doing this to increase employee alertness and productivity.

There’s no worse feeling than waking up feeling groggy from lack of sleep. Don’t rely on caffeine to drag you through the day. Speak to your employer to reach a joint solution that works for both of you – at the end of the day, they are looking for a motivated and productive employee, not one that's half asleep.