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August 10, 2018

How sleep affects your team's performance

As a manager, it’s your job to have a solid handle on your team’s priorities and responsibilities during working hours, yet it’s a well-known truth that outside factors can affect work performance, too. Sleep especially can have an impact on employee productivity and team performance.

Sleep is one of the three core pillars of health. A lack of restorative sleep can spill over into the workday, and the solution isn’t to shrug it off and add an extra shot of espresso to your afternoon coffee.

It’s important to know how a lack of quality sleep can hurt your team’s performance—and what you can do to help get things back on track.

The cost of poor sleep

In the United States alone, poor sleep contributes to slower productivity, workplace accidents, and billions in costs due to employee absence or arriving late.

If someone wakes up at 7 a.m. and is still working at midnight under the onus of “getting ahead,” they’re most likely not performing at their best. This is because after being awake for longer than 17-19 hours in a row, individual performance drops, mimicking the effects of someone driving under the influence.

Sleep deprivation has been shown to impair attention, memory, and decision-making skills. The brain requires time to enter deep sleep phases where cells and tissues are renewed, memories are filed away, and waste matter is eliminated.

It’s important to not deny the brain the opportunity to enter these phases, especially over repeated nights.

Poor sleep and chronic conditions

Sometimes, sleep problems stem from something beyond one’s immediate environment. One of the most common sleep disorders in the United States is sleep apnea, affecting an estimated 54 million people, 80 percent of whom are undiagnosed.

Contrary to stereotypes, sleep apnea affects people of all ages, genders, and fitness levels. It has been linked to numerous chronic conditions, including irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, depression, heart attack, and stroke.

If you have a teammate who yawns all day long, can’t seem to wake up, or falls asleep during meetings, it may be helpful for them to consult a sleep specialist.

How you can help

If you manage a team, there are a few things you can do to help prioritize sleep for your teammates:

Be mindful of your email use

Let your team know that late-night emailing is frowned upon and won’t be rewarded. First, tailor your own work email usage to a schedule that doesn’t involve communicating at all hours of the night. If you do end up sending emails when most people are normally asleep, you can preface it with something like “I don’t expect an immediate reply as I know this is after-hours.” You can also communicate to your team that you don’t check work email between certain hours.

Work is more than just facetime

Showing up early and staying late just for the sake of being in the office doesn’t increase productivity. This kind of behavior could be fostered by company culture or expectations laid out by previous managers. Regardless of how this started, you have the power to mold this behavior by communicating what you value to the team.

Encourage group wellness

HR professionals and directors of global benefits programs at large companies like Cisco have seen the definition of employee wellness go far beyond the typical scope of gym memberships and yoga classes in recent years. Many companies now offer a reimbursement program to be spent on massage, sleep workshops, or anything else the employee deems beneficial to their health. And the idea is gaining traction: from 2016 to 2017, nearly 25 percent of companies increased their wellness offerings, while only 3 percent reduced them.

Make sleep health a company-wide value

Companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers and Unilever, among others, are part of the increasing population of big businesses that are showing their employees that they take sleep seriously. By offering employees the option of going to sleep schools, companies are giving their employees the ability to track how sleep affects their ability to handle stress, and how well they are able to transition to home life when the work day is over. Seeing how proper sleep positively affects their lives, both at work and beyond, is a powerful motivator.

Another example of making sleep a company value are LinkedIn’s wellness initiatives. These best-in-class actions initially began as a tool for recruitment. However, it brought along with it a surprising and welcome result: 75 percent of LinkedIn employees reported feeling more loyal to the company because of the program.

At any company, a culture that values sleep often comes from the top. Consider sharing your concerns and the supporting data with the HR department and other leaders at your company. You might be able to kickstart a company-wide initiative that values productivity, employee health, and sleep.

If you’re looking to communicate the importance of sleep health to your team, contact us at employer@beddrsleep.com to learn more about Beddr’s Employer Program.

Marc Biondolillo is passionate about finding ways that technology can help improve health care outcomes. He has 15 years of experience across the tech and health sectors at companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Intuit, and NerdWallet. He holds an MBA from University of California, Berkeley and a BA from University of California, San Diego.