The key to employee wellness? A good night’s sleep

Ah bedtime. The one thing we resist as a child yet prioritise as an adult.

Sleep is essential. We spend around a third of our lives asleep and it’s as important for our health as eating, drinking and even breathing; it’s critical to reenergising and vital for our mental wellbeing.

However getting enough sleep is challenging, especially for today’s working families – and not just for those caring for new born babies as you might expect.

New data from our 2019 Modern Families Index highlighted that the culprit is in fact work. Work is increasingly overspilling the allocated ‘working day’ and encroaching on family time. When work and family come into conflict there is a negative effect on parents’ wellbeing both at home and at work, with almost half of parents reporting that it had noticeable negative impacts on the amount of sleep they could get (47%).

Bad moods and a lack of focus are just the headlines on the list of the cost of a sleepless night, not to mention the hightened risk of injury and accidents, increasing difficulty in concentrating and inability to make a decision. But sleep can also affect overall health and increase the risks of colds and flu, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

In a nutshell, when the Zzz are in short supply – it’s a costly problem for both employers and employees.

Great sleep – from A to Zzzz

Addressing employees’ sleeping time might sound difficult and we’re not suggesting a group bedtime story to round off the day, or a complimentary hot cup of malted milk. Instead, it’s important to look for the cause.

As the families in this year’s Index have told us, striking the right balance between work and personal commitments is key to helping employees to get a good night’s rest.

For employers, this might mean encouraging people to leave work on time and to turn off laptops and mobile phones in the evening. It might also mean looking at work pressures and the scope of a role, the number of projects in progress and delivery timescales, in addition to examining resource and delegating tasks.

Thinking about employee benefits in the context of sleep can also be helpful. Adding sleep to a wellness programme can offer advice to employees on the benefits of sleep and how to make lifestyles changes in order to improve quality of sleep, such as promoting physical exercise and a healthy diet. Sleep healthy tips can also be helpful, including how to make bedrooms ‘sleep-friendly’ and creating a sleep routine. For employers with practical employee benefits it can also be helpful to consider how these can improve employees’ wellbeing and reduce unnecessary stress or pressure points. For families with children and elderly dependants we know that last minute changes to care for a loved one can be an additional, unexpected and particularly challenging issue. Solutions such as back-up care can relieve pressure when unplanned disruptions to care occur – enabling people to quickly and easily find alternative care and offering peace of mind. 

The value of investment? Supporting our people to sleep can improve wellbeing and help them to be productive, focused and high-performing when required. For employers it’s important to not pay attention solely to performance at work, but to what's impacting those performances.