John is a new parent who, in the addition to adjusting to life with a newborn, has recently taken on a new project at work. The extra hours he’s had to put in at the office paired with multiple night wakings to care for an infant is wreaking havoc on his sleep schedule.  

Ask These 3 Questions to Stop the Employee Sleep Epidemic

John is a new parent who, in the addition to adjusting to life with a newborn, has recently taken on a new project at work. The extra hours he’s had to put in at the office paired with multiple night wakings to care for an infant is wreaking havoc on his sleep schedule.

Sleep infographic

John is not alone. Regardless of personal life circumstances or other work obligations, many employees are not getting the amount of sleep they need. The “Sleep Epidemic,” as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call it, is not surprisingly linked to a host of workplace problems, including reduced innovation, lower job satisfaction, poor productivity and even unethical behavior. [1]

Dr. Stuart Quan, a professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, considers sleep so critical to a person’s overall health and well-being that he calls it the “third pillar of health,” along with fitness and nutrition. Given the importance of sleep health to a person’s well-being, Ceridian has collaborated with Harvard to tackle this important health issue in the workplace.

“In general, if you are getting less than 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep per night, you are probably sleep deficient,” says Dr. Quan. “Being tired at work is an important issue as it can certainly affect one’s job performance. At one extreme, you may have people falling asleep at their desks or in meetings, but more importantly, for people who drive or operate machinery, this can result in accidents, injuries or even death.”

As employees like John struggle to balance the demands of work and life, it’s no surprise that sleep is often the first to suffer. Employers should take steps now to help educate and change sleep behavior in their employees – and often this starts with looking at the workplace culture as a whole. What sleep health steps can you take to help employees feel more rested and, in turn, be healthier, happier and more productive on the job?

3 sleep health questions employers should consider

  1. What effect is the 24/7 workplace mindset having on employee sleep health? 24/7

As workplace cultures continue to shift to a 24/7 work environment with employees remaining glued to their smartphones and mobile devices at all hours of the day and night, employees risk compromising their sleep habits in order to stay connected.

According to sleep survey data presented at Harvard’s 2013 Corporate Sleep Health Summit [2], 72 percent of American workers polled said they sleep with their smartphones next to their beds in the on position, and 45 percent send emails and texts often or always right before they fall asleep at night.

While offering flexible work arrangements is a benefit many employees value, the cost is that many employees rarely disconnect, even on vacation or on the weekends. This “fear of missing out” attitude, or FOMO, permeates a company culture. Many times, such behavior is even rewarded by superiors. Evaluating how your company rewards work behavior and sets performance expectations can shed important insight into the impact such a culture can have on employees’ sleep health.

  1. Is innovation being checked at the door? light bulb

Often lack of sleep is quantified in the workplace by lost productivity. For example, a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine estimated that lost productivity due to poor sleep costs $3,156 per employee with insomnia, and about $2,500 for those with less severe sleep problems. Similarly, a Harvard study estimated that the annual cost of lost productivity at U.S. companies due to sleep deprivation exceeds $63 billion.

But there are multiple other costs that can’t be quantified in the same way. Specifically, researchers have found that innovation and flexible decision making are often first to suffer when employees endure prolonged wakefulness. [3] If you want your employees to perform at the top of their game and bring creative, outside-the-box thinking to their daily tasks, encouraging adequate sleep habits can prove beneficial to more than just your bottom line.

  1. How can you leverage corporate wellness programs to promote healthy sleep habits? zzz's

As the “third pillar of health,” sleep often takes the back burner to nutrition and exercise when it comes to corporate wellness initiatives, but employers should prioritize partnering with their employee assistance programs to promote healthy sleep.

What are some specific steps your company can take to promote healthy sleep habits? Below are a few tips to help start changing the sleep culture at your company so you can get on your way to having more rested and healthy employees.

Workplace sleep health tips:

  • Offer employees a place where they can rest – according to a 2011 Society for Human Resource Management survey, only six percent of offices had napping rooms for employees. Employees who take just a 20-minute nap can wake up feeling refreshed and recharged.
  • Promote healthy sleep habits by offering sleep disorder screenings and wellness coaching programs through work.
  • Communicate positive messages about sleep by hosting events like a “sleep awareness month.”
  • Encourage employees to unplug during the evening, weekends and on vacation.

For more information:

  • View our infographic on Sleep Health in the Workplace
  • Learn more about Ceridian LifeWorks
[1]  Can a Lack of Sleep Make You Behave Unethically? Researchers Think So.

[2] 5 Things You Should Know About Sleep Health in the Workplace;