It’s common knowledge that sleeping well is key to functioning well in the workplace. (And outside it!) So why have employers traditionally viewed sleep as an employee’s personal responsibility? Why, given the wealth of research and data about how people can be more productive and happy when they’re well-rested, do only a quarter of employers offer wellness programs that specifically address sleep?
By giving your employees strategies, tools, and encouragement for better sleep, you can benefit both them and your business. Especially in the midst of a holiday season that can burden your employees with extra stress and anxiety, the best gift you can give them is better sleep.
Below, you’ll find practical ideas for “gifting” sleep resources that’ll help your employees return from the holidays refreshed and re-energized—and can have a lifelong impact on their well-being.
How a lack of sleep affects your employees and your business
When your employees get enough high-quality sleep, they’re happier and more creative, focused, and productive, with increased emotion-reading and problem-solving abilities. When they’re suffering from poor-quality sleep, the demands of the workday take their toll. Everything is worse for the sleep-deprived: how they feel physically, their interactions with colleagues, and the quality of their work.
During the high-stress holiday season, the need for high-quality sleep is especially important. Getting together with family, financial strains, travel and pandemic-related anxiety, and year-end deadlines or goals can all affect your employees’ ability to feel rested.
Employers are affected, too. Chronic insufficient sleep costs the U.S. economy more than $410 billion, or 1.23 million working days, annually. And overly sleepy employees are 70% more likely to be involved in workplace accidents than their colleagues who aren’t sleep-deprived.
In short, better-rested employees are better employees overall.
How to encourage better sleep among employees
Offer a better-sleep program
A better-sleep program is about educating employees on the importance of sleep, in addition to behavioral sleep strategies. You could send employees a sleep questionnaire that leads to an online tutorial for handling a specific sleep issue, or a regular company-wide newsletter about sleep hygiene. You could offer a series of lunch-and-learns on sleep, or sleep leadership training for managers that teaches them how to foster a workplace culture that emphasizes better sleep.
This kind of sleep-focused education can contribute to reduced absenteeism and a higher quality of life for employees, and reduced costs for employers. One financial services company, for instance, implemented a better-sleep program that led to fewer medical claims.
Give employees a rest-and-relaxation day of their choosing
Many employers let employees take mental health days. You should, of course, offer those. But by establishing additional paid days off in which employees are encouraged to do nothing but rest and relax, you’re giving a clear sign that you’re invested in their sleep. Whether employees want to sleep in like it’s the weekend or spend a cozy afternoon on the couch with a book or their favorite TV show, you should encourage them to do whatever makes them feel most restful.
The holiday season is a great time to give employees extra paid time off (PTO) earmarked for rest and relaxation. During the holidays, you might even consider shutting down the office entirely—that is, giving every employee PTO at the same time—as innovative companies like LinkedIn and Bumble have done. (To make mindful PTO as restorative as possible for your employees, check out these tips.)
Offer free sleep apnea screening
Every year, over 30 million Americans are diagnosed with sleep apnea, a potentially serious disorder marked by abnormal breathing during sleep. Many people have sleep apnea without knowing it. Untreated, it prevents restful sleep and can cause various health complications.
By offering free sleep apnea screening to your employees, you can improve both their health and the health of your business. One study found that commercial truck drivers who participated in an employer sleep apnea screening and treatment program saved $441 per month in medical costs.
Encourage afternoon naps
Yes, sleeping on the job can be a good thing. Naps boost alertness, improve memory, and can stop or even reverse a decline in perceptual performance throughout the day. Researchers say that 10 to 20 minutes is the best length for a nap, as it’s restful without letting you enter deeper sleep stages.
To facilitate naps, offer paid nap breaks or designate certain afternoons meeting-free, so employees are able to use that time to rest up. If possible, create spaces at your workplace that are dark, quiet, and kept at a comfortably cool temperature.
Give employees tools for better sleep with Calm
The holidays aren’t the only season to prioritize mental health in the workplace. Learn how to support your employees’ mental health year-round with our guide to improving mental health in the workplace.