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Are you making your staff sleepy?

by CBHS Corporate Health | Aug 05, 2019
Staffs sleeping in a office

No-one intentionally plans it this way, but your workplace physical location and operations could be inadvertently making your staff tired and unproductive. Sleepy staff aren’t good for business and are also a risk to their own and others’ personal health and safety.

Let’s look at some things around the workplace which can be less than optimal to alertness.

Not enough natural light

We’ve all seen or worked in offices that rely on harsh fluorescent lighting no matter what time of the day. And that’s not great for the inhabitants! Natural daylight is the best option for a healthy and productive workplace, according to leading ergonomist Dr. Alan Hedge. Results from Dr Hedge’s studies indicate that increased exposure to natural light unlocks a tremendous competitive advantage for companies by positively impacting employees’ health, energy and work-related performance. Workers in offices with optimised natural light reported a 56%decrease in drowsiness. Eco Business published separate research that found that workplaces with great daylight had a 3-40% gain in productivity and sales.

Understandably, your building needs to achieve the right balance between letting enough natural light in, and letting too much in, causing glare and difficulties in seeing screens. There will be times where you’ll need to pull down your shades or blinds, but take care not to leave them down all day. Where possible, workplaces are investing in or moving to buildings with smart design principles, making the most of natural light to drive productivity and also save on energy costs. 

Poor nutrition

It’s a no-brainer that food has an impact on our brains. As an employer, you’re in a unique position to positively influence your staffs’ eating habits and awareness of healthy eating. We spend a lot of our time at work, and what we eat while we’re here impacts on how drowsy or productive we are. Do you provide a healthy breakfast for your people? Consider having them start the day off right with carbohydrate-rich foods like fruits, cereals (low in sugar varieties), oats and wholegrain bread. It’s also important to encourage a culture where people feel supported to stop for breaks and leave their work area to eat. Read more ideas on how your workplace can influence nutrition.

Lack of policies and inappropriate rostering

Employees in industries who work overtime, shift work and long hours are particularly prone to fatigue. Leaders need to mitigate these risks through strong policies and frameworks, to ensure staff are able to get quality sleeps, in between their time at work. For example, ensuring that there is sufficient cover for staff during times of annual leave or when people are off sick, as well as limiting the amount of overtime staff do. When rostering staff, make sure that the scheduling allows for each individual to get a continuous 7-8 hours of sleep each 24 hours, or 50 hours of sleep across seven days. Worksafe Tas has some excellent recommended actions for workplaces to take when rostering and creating policies around hours worked.

If you have workers with flexible schedules – it’s great that you support flexible working by the way − encourage some structure around this, like agreeing an average start or finish time. It’s also important to ensure that your people are keeping late/early calls and meetings to a maximum of 1-2 times per week.

Everyone is connected these days, and that can make it hard to switch off. We all know (or are, ourselves) notorious late-night email checkers. If your workplace can implement policies including limiting or disabling communications outside of business hours, you help encourage a culture where people can truly switch off. It’s a lot easier for people to disconnect, enjoy quality downtime and even have earlier nights when they aren’t tempted by the constant ‘ping’ of emails. Car manufacturer, Volkswagen, was one of the first major companies to adopt this policy, in 2012, by switching off Blackberry emails outside of work hours. Even if you decide not to take technological measures to block emails, by having your leaders role-model ‘right to disconnect’ behaviours, your organisation can achieve cultural change.

Help your organisation thrive with a sleep assessment

A Sleep Assessment – designed by experts and backed by the Sleep Health Foundation – can rapidly assess and address the sleep health of your organisation.  The results will provide you with an overview of your business’ sleep health risks and recommendations to support a targeted approach for your people. High-risk individuals can receive a referral letter for their GP as well as options to self-enrol into sleep condition management programs.

To find out more, or book your assessment, contact us at