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16 Mar 2023
by Dr Sophie Dix

3 ways employers can help their workforce get better sleep

Poor sleep could be affecting your employees’ mental and physical health. And it's dangerous. Here’s what to do about it

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Sleep is strongly linked to mental and physical health. And the quality of our sleep affects all aspects of our lives. Rest is has a particular impact when it comes to work — what most of us spend much of our waking hours doing.

Poor sleep affects our ability to concentrate, learn, problem-solve, recall important information and communicate. Sleep deprivation also affects our mood and can make us feel low, anxious, and irritable, affecting both the individual and the people around us.

So it’s no surprise that lack of sleep and poor quality sleep affect workplace performance, productivity and, perhaps most crucially, safety on the job. Tired workers are 70% more likely to be involved in work accidents and at higher risk of road accidents en route to work, as 10-20% of all car crashes in the UK are associated with driver fatigue. Sleep-deprived workers are also twice as likely to miss work.

On the other hand, workers who are well rested are more alert, more productive and less likely to make costly or dangerous mistakes. But, with a few notable exceptions, sleep doesn’t happen at work and is deeply personal. So what can employers do about poor sleep?

3 ways employers can help

Although many of the circumstances that affect employees’ sleep quality are outside your influence, there are still actions you can take to support them. Here are three to get you started:

1. Provide tools for better sleep hygiene

A technical term for good sleep habits, sleep hygiene is a set of behaviours people can adopt to get better sleep. Help your employees improve their sleep hygiene in an accessible way with digital resources or app-based programmes designed to teach them how to create a better sleep routine and equip them with evidence-based techniques to help them get better rest.

2. Support healthy work-life balance

Disconnecting is the first step to drifting off to a good night’s rest. Setting clear boundaries around when people are expected to be online and reply to work messages helps keep work from overflowing into people’s home life.

Make it easier for workers to turn their minds off and sleep after a busy day of work by encouraging a healthy work-life balance.

3. Encourage workers to use their annual leave

Taking time away from work to relax and recover is a key element of mental health, work-life balance, and, ultimately, sleep.

Most full-time employees have access to holidays, as well as personal and sick leave, but many may not feel comfortable taking it. Encourage workers to take their days off.

Communicate clearly and often and lead by example, ie, by taking your own leave. Make sure that everyone on your team knows that paid leave exists for a reason and that you expect them to use it to relax and recover.

Without proper rest, workers are at increased risk of developing chronic illness and long-term health problems such as diabetes and depression. They’re also more likely to lose focus, become sick and cause workplace accidents. By supporting better sleep habits, you’re helping to keep your workforce safe and healthy and enabling employees to get the rest they need to perform at their best.

To find out more about how to promote a healthy work-life balance and support better sleep by prioritising mental health in your workplace, download The business case: Mental health and the employee experience.

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