Companies often dedicate substantial resources on employee development through both internal and external training programs. In addition, organizations spend lots of money and time to increase competitive advantage and boost employee morale.
However, one overlooked approach that also offers competitive advantage is ensuring that your workforce is well-rested. Not getting enough sleep — even for a single night — can make your employees groggy and irritable the next day, decreasing employee morale and productivity. If this pattern continues for days, weeks, or months, more serious problems can occur in your workplace. Here’s why.
Why is sleep important for our bodies?
Your body is like a factory. Parts of your body work in shifts to perform essential tasks that collectively keep the factory functional and productive. During your sleep cycle, your body carries out the vital night-shift work that prepares the factory for the morning shift. Here are some essential functions that occur while you’re sleeping:
- Boosting immunity
- Healing damaged cells
- Revitalizing your cardiovascular system
- Recovering from daily activities
- Processing emotions
- Solidifying memory
- Clearing out toxins
- Heightening cognitive functions
So when you take away the body’s ability to sleep, you also cut hours for your factory employees who are carrying out these important tasks. The immunity boosting team isn’t able to complete their work on time, so you’re more likely to get sick. Your toxin-clearing team might only get halfway finished before they’re dismissed for the day, and your cell repair team might have to rush the job.
When your employees are sleep-deprived, it negatively affects their health and wellbeing. It also impacts how they perform and interact with others at work. Many managers and leaders may believe that colleagues have a lack of focus or motivation, irritability, and bad decision making as a result of poor training or even the work environment that they are participating in. However, the answer may be simple: the culprit can likely be a lack of sleep. So, what exactly happens when your employees don’t get enough sleep?
A study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine discussed that when workers in their survey got less than the minimum of seven essential hours of sleep per night, they experienced poorer workplace performance. These respondents also admitted to struggling to stay focused in meetings, taking longer to complete tasks, and even found it increasingly difficult to generate new ideas. Overall, these sleep deprived workers indicated a reduced motivation to learn and lesser ability to manage competing demands.
3 Reasons Sleep Deprivation Lowers Employee Morale
1. Employees Have Poor Focus
There is a direct connection between sleep deprivation and maintaining the focus required for employees to make sound decisions, perform basic multi-tasking skills, and be more productive. Employees who don’t get enough sleep tend to make more mistakes and don’t follow through with tasks, whether they’re failing to complete assignments, forgetting to respond to an email, or disengaging during meetings.
2. Increased Emotional Reactions are More Common
Part of your brain called the amygdala is responsible for processing your emotions. When an employee is suffering from sleep loss, their amygdala works overtime while another part of their brain — the prefrontal cortex — is underworking. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for emotional control and decision-making, so sleep-deprived employees will have trouble acting rationally and will approach situations more emotionally.
3. Sleep Deprivation Results in Lower Creativity and Problem-Solving
Almost all organizations can recognize that innovation is important. Lack of sleep makes it hard to concentrate and maintain a positive attitude. Not only do employees have difficulty performing menial tasks, they struggle to engage in higher cognitive functioning. When employees don’t feel like they have the space to be creative, they often feel under-valued, leading to boredom and lethargy.
Research has shown that sleep deprivation affects our ability to be creative and problem-solve. This means that if your employees are “running on empty,” they will have difficulty working with others to form ideas and be innovative, and we all know innovation and high employee morale is key to a successful company.
Although allowing employee innovation may seem difficult to implement, the payoff can make it more than worth the effort and investment. The link between the ability to express creativity and passion for work should not be underestimated, so focusing on honing individual talents is crucial to having your employees reach their full potential.
Bottom Line: Sleep Has a Direct Impact on Employee Morale
The evidence shows that a well-rested employee is more functional, more attuned to their emotions, and more supportive in their work environment. So, what can you do as a company to make sleep a priority without sacrificing hours or productivity?
While midday resting isn’t common in American culture, it’s a common practice around the world. The siesta is a long-practiced tradition in Spain, and in China, employees consider it a human right to rest for an hour after their lunch breaks. These countries demonstrate equal or better productivity statistics in their workforces, indicating that carving out hours of the workday for napping can actually increase productivity.
Additionally, large companies like Google are becoming more nap-friendly, installing offering nap rooms with dawn simulators for awakening and essential oil diffusers for soothing aromatherapy.
You can also provide easy access to healthy office snacks so employees can easily eat healthy. Studies show that a healthy diet leads to better sleep, so encourage your employees to avoid sugar, caffeine, and oily foods.
Some companies offer programs to encourage their employees to sleep for an added bonus. For example, the insurance group Aetna became increasingly worried about the impact of sleep deprivation on their employee performance, and decided to start paying its employees to get a good night’s sleep — $300 a year, to be exact. When Aetna staff participate in the sleep program, they have the potential to earn 25$ for every 20 nights “in which they sleep seven hours or more,” totaling $300 every 12 months.
The bottom line: well-rested employees are productive and happy employees. Encourage your employees to get quality sleep and reap the benefits of a high employee morale.