` 6 ways to support your staff in improving their sleep – and wellbeing | Reward and Employee Benefits Association (REBA)
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31 Mar 2022
by Dr Sophie Dix

6 ways to support your staff in improving their sleep – and wellbeing

Poor sleep affects productivity and mental health - and a company’s bottom line

A construction worker asleep at work

 

Sleep is an essential piece of the complex puzzle that is employee wellbeing. And unfortunately, many of us are just not getting enough of it – chronic sleep deprivation is common among the UK workforce. 

One in three adults, according to the NHS, regularly struggle with sleep, and millions of people say poor sleep has negatively affected their mental health and wellbeing, according to the Mental Health Foundation.

And beyond the associated costs of the impact of poor sleep on mental and physical health for employers, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine says poor sleep has been correlated with decreased productivity and negatively impacted performance and safety. In lost working days, while the Rand Corporation estimates sleep deprivation to cost companies 200,000 working days and up to £40bn yearly. But it’s not all bad news. Improving rest could reduce business risk and impact bottom lines substantially, while just increasing nightly sleep by an additional hour, from under six hours to between six and seven hours a night, could add up to £24bn to the UK economy, Rand says. 

But how can employers help their employees prioritise sleep and get better rest?

Supporting better sleep for your workforce
While many of the circumstances that affect employees’ sleep are outside of employers’ influence, there are still actions organisations can take to encourage better sleep habits and prioritise employee rest. 

1.    Keep it light
If your employees come together to a physical workplace, do what you can to make sure there’s plenty of natural light in the space, or in its absence, add in blue light, which can also help. For remote workers, this may mean adding a budget for healthy ‘lighting’ or encouraging teams to switch off and have a morning walk outside in natural light. This type of light signals to the body that it’s daytime and helps regulate the body’s internal clock that tells people when to wake and work … and when to sleep.

2.    Handle stress (as it happens)
Don’t let stress keep building up in your workplace. You don’t want that pile of worries to be waiting for your employees after hours when it’s time to rest. Instead, take time to check in regularly and communicate clearly about any upcoming changes that might be worrying your staff. It may also be helpful to give your staff access to digital solutions to help them find their calm in the moment (wherever they are) and encourage them to use them on regular wellbeing breaks throughout the work day.  

3.    Encourage time off
Holidays affect employee mental wellbeing in more ways than one. They’re not just an important way for workers to disconnect from the workplace, reduce stress and rest their minds; they have also been shown to improve sleep quality, with people experiencing an additional hour of quality sleep post-vacation.

4.    Offer access to sleep solutions
Support sleep for your workforce by offering them access to trainings and tools to help them build better sleep habits as part of their employee benefits. Make sure that whatever you offer is easy to access and includes a variety of techniques, as different methods may appeal more or less to members of your team. While some may find an evening thought record (drawing on techniques from cognitive behavioural therapy) helpful, others may prefer relaxing soundscapes or guided meditations. 

5.    Schedule screen breaks
Time away from devices is good for the eyes, the brain … and sleep cycles, too. Encourage your employees to take regular breaks from screens (computers, tablets and phones) throughout the workday. It’s also helpful to clearly communicate that the company doesn’t expect them to answer work messages (email or chat) after hours, and lead by example, ie, not respond to or send emails late into the evening.

6.    Address root causes with benefits
Lifestyle and habits impact sleep. Employee benefits that promote positive behaviours to support mental and physical health can help workers improve their overall quality of life and, with it, their sleep. For example, fitness memberships can help workers stay physically active. Movement (not right before bed) has  been shown to help people get better rest and has proven mental and physical health benefits. Mindfulness meditation (whether practised in-person or via app) can also positively impact mental health and sleep.

However you decide to support your staff in getting better rest, sleep is an essential piece of employee wellbeing and health. To learn more about how mental health impacts the employee experience, check out Koa Health’s report Mental Health and The Employee Experience: The Case for Investment.

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In partnership with Koa Health

At Koa Health, we believe digital mental health solutions are the answer to mental health issues.

Contact us today

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