We’ve discussed the widespread and sometimes severe effects of sleep deprivation on the workforce before here at 1850 Thoughts, with some companies even going so far as to install dedicated 'sleep pods' in their offices in an effort to alleviate these negative ramifications at the source. If the point did however need driving home any further, newly published research conducted by bed manufacturer Sealy UK has further reinforced the notion that far too many of the nation’s employees are indeed turning up for work sleep deprived, which is subsequently having an impact upon not only their productivity and mood, but their safety.

The research was conducted as part of the company’s wider-reaching Worldwide Sleep Census, during which they surveyed 5,000 people of working age from a range of industries across the UK. Rather alarmingly they found that as many as 70% of respondents feel they could function better at work if they were able to sleep better, which is undoubtedly contributing to the well-publicised productivity slump which continues to hinder the UK economy.

The vast majority of respondents (77%) stated outright that they fail to get the rest and recovery time needed to feel healthy and happy, which of course leads to some less-than-desirable consequences. For example 65% say they regularly lose their temper or have been irritable with a colleague, while 30% claim they suffer a lack of productivity, and 19% say they’re often late into work or have time off as a result.

This widespread lack of sleep among the UK workforce is now having an impact on the safety of the affected workers with 11% of respondents having experienced a recent accident at work, such as a trip or a slip, as a result of feeling tired. It is worth noting however that the issue is seemingly more severe among some industries than others; the most sleep deprived professions - based on the likelihood to wake up exhausted each morning - emerged as follows:
  1. Hospitality (86%)
  2. Banking and finance (79%)
  3. Construction (77%)
  4. Retail (76%)
  5. Transport and communications (76%)
Neil Robinson, a recognised expert on sleep and the effects thereof at Sealy UK, commented, “Lack of sleep - and the subsequent fallout the next day - can be caused by a wide range of legitimate medical conditions, from stress, to mental health problems or respiratory disease. Even at the less severe end of the spectrum, there’s usually an underlying health issue causing sleeplessness. However, it’s often treated as an incidental issue by bosses, with a ‘pull yourself together’ attitude. This is not helpful for employees, especially when there are some potentially severe consequences of turning up exhausted.

“There are of course occasions when staff are tired as a result of staying up too late or burning the candle at both ends. However, this campaign is about helping bosses make that distinction, as well as encouraging a common-sense approach to effectively managing sleep in the workplace.”

In a concentrated effort to address this often-overlooked issue, Sealy is now working with leading HR expert Kate Russell - of Russell HR Consulting - to produce what they describe as a ‘common sense’ guide’ for bosses to better manage sleep deprivation of staff. Companies and organisations already supporting the campaign include North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust and The Light leisure and retail centre in Yorkshire.

Kate Russell also commented, “Tiredness poses a severe challenge to our ability to function well, yet it is frequently the root cause of decreased productivity, accidents and mistakes which cost companies billions of pounds each year. Sleep deprivation is no laughing matter. Eventually, our biological drive to compensate for sleep deprivation wins, and the loser might be your workers, your business or even you. Businesses have a critical responsibility to take sleeplessness seriously. If you want to raise performance - both your own and your organisation’s - you need to pay attention to this important issue. Ensuring that staff are well-rested is quite simply a smart business strategy.”

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor as he continues to expand his horizons.
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