An article in the Guardian caught my eye this week: Britons told to get a good night’s sleep. Long-hours culture behind epidemic of sleeplessness damaging workers’ health.
That sounds rather too familiar. The article refers to The Business of Sleep, by Prof. Vicki Culpin which highlights the serious issues that lack of sleep is causing to UK workers and to the economy as a whole. Significant sleeplessness can increase your risk of depression, dementia, strokes and heart attacks, as well as being linked to obesity and diabetes. It's impacting sickness, retention, morale, engagement and profit.
Some of the causes of poor sleep are more obvious than others – young children, shift work, and social life are pretty easy to spot, but one of the issues that we often see in the organisations that we work with, is that it’s actually a cultural issue.
How many of you keep your mobile phone next to your bed?
Do you silence it?
Do you check your emails?
Do you reply to emails when you’re in bed?
There are so many people that we meet that are frightened not to respond to emails immediately. They feel that if they don’t respond in an instant, then it shows a lack of commitment or care, they should be on duty 24hrs a day. This can build into a “who can email latest” competition, where you’re not part of the club unless you work ridiculous hours and are permanently on duty.
Where does this stem from? It is often the tone set by those in leadership or management positions and as someone who wants to be seen to do well and to be committed to their business, this fear of not being seen as responsive is very real.
Well, just stop replying! Sadly, it’s not that easy, as long as emails are being sent, your team will feel that they have to reply. If you are serious about changing the culture, then you need to lead by example.
There’s a significant bottom line impact too “Getting the right amount of sleep every night can reduce mortality, improve organisational effectiveness and save the UK economy between $36.7bn and $50bn (1.36%-1.86% of GDP) every year,” (Prof. Vicki Culpin).
We realise that occasionally there are genuine emergencies that might require you to contact your team members out of hours, but this should certainly not be the rule.
Whilst there is little that you can do as an employer to reduce the disruption of young children, snoring partners or late-night indigestion, you should lead by example, and allow your teams to switch off after hours, after all, it’s having a negative impact on your business.