What’s The Key to Workplace Success?

Dr. Rebecca Robbins
November 15, 2018

Dr. Rebecca Robbins is a sleep researcher whose work examines how sleep impacts our daily lives and can help us meet our full potential. She is partnering with Beautyrest to put a renewed focus on sleep—exploring the connection between sleep and other aspects of our lives. She will be providing ongoing insights from scientific literature as well as strategies for optimal rest and recovery.

How much sleep do you get? Unfortunately, while many of us have the best intentions to get into bed early, if you are balancing work, family, and social obligations, sleep can often get the short end of the stick. Sleep deprivation in the workplace has been viewed as a badge of honor for generations. However, sleep is directly linked to a vast array of health benefits that are particularly relevant to workplace success, such as improved productivity, enhanced mood, and greater problem solving capability to name a few. So, if you find yourself looking for a promotion, wishing to improve your leadership skills, or reaching for your next career milestone, you might find that sleep is a key factor in attaining these goals.

SLEEP AND WORK: A DIRECT AND CONSEQUENTIAL RELATIONSHIP

 
The quality and quantity of our sleep are vital to our waking success not only at home but also in our professional lives. The importance of sleep is perhaps most acute when we go without rest. When deprived of sleep for 48 hours, individuals score much higher on measures of risky decision making.1 Sleep deprivation also comes with a hefty price tag. Research shows that employees who experience sleep difficulties are more likely to be absent and demonstrate lower productivity than employees who maintain healthy sleep habits.2
 
Despite the important role sleep plays in workplace outcomes, research from the Better Sleep Council shows that a large proportion of individuals report poor sleep health. Specifically, among American adults over 60% say they’re not sleeping well three or more nights per week.3 Although healthy sleep is one of the most important ingredients for on-the-job performance, many of us deprive ourselves of the sleep our bodies depend on.

LEADERSHIP: TAKE NOTE

In the words of Shakespeare, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” Leaders can feel as though the weight of the world is on their shoulders - which no doubt bears consequence for sleep duration and quality. According to one survey of leaders across the globe, as many as 40% may be unable to obtain sound sleep.4 Although relatively avant-garde in the modern workplace, leadership can make sleep a priority for themselves and their employees.
 
Leader behaviors and practices in many ways set the tone for employees. However, leaders can fall victim to poor sleep habits and behaviors, such as late night emailing setting a precedent for their employees. Research shows that the common practice of ‘checking in’ or logging in to send late night emails or perform other work-related tasks adversely impacts an employee’s sleep that night and next day performance.5 Leaders stand to benefit by modeling good sleep hygiene practices for their employees.

WORKPLACE PROMOTION AND SLEEP

Many workplaces promote employee health to advance individual health outcomes and to yield desirable workplace outcomes (e.g., lower absenteeism, improved performance). One study found that over 70% of worksites featured at least some health promotional activities,yet sleep was only represented in a fraction of these activities. Forward-thinking organizations, such as Huffington Post and Google, have developed employee educational opportunities on sleep health and installed nap rooms and pods for employees. Taken together, sleep has tremendous workplace implications. While other domains of health are vital for health and performance, sleep is a critical component to help employees be more awake.
 
Healthy sleep patterns are linked to sound decision making, maintaining a healthy immune system, and engaging in productive and focused work. The growing momentum and awareness surrounding the importance of sleep health is evidenced by recent workplace initiatives. With a continued focus on sleep in society, we are one step closer to achieving a more productive workplace.

IMPROVING YOUR SLEEP FOR SUCCESS

Looking for ways to improve your sleep quality? Try reserving your bed for sleeping only. If you use it as an alternative dining room table or desk, you condition your brain to associate active, awake behaviors with the bed.
 
Stress is another factor often keeping us awake at night. If you haven't fallen asleep after 30 minutes, get out of bed and walk into another room so your brain doesn't associate your bed with worrying. Do a "mind dump" by quickly writing all your problems down on paper. Meditation and other simple tips can help you get a better night’s sleep.
 
Sources:
1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16489997
2 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1389945708001160
3 https://bettersleep.org/press/press-releases/the-high-cost-of-poor-sleep/  
4 http://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037/cpb0000092
5 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749597814000089
6 https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2006.100313