As a chronic insomniac I have spent many a sleepless night putting the world to right. The mass of evidence out there tells us how bad sleep deprivation is for our health, wellbeing and work performance, but do employers need a wake-up call to truly grasp the scale of it, and how can they best support their employees?
This year’s Health and Wellbeing at Work conference has an entire programme dedicated to managing sleep and fatigue. Sleep expert Professor Vicki Culpin has spent over 20 years researching the relationship between sleep and personal resilience. She believes that “when employees are irritable, make bad decisions or seem unfocused or unmotivated, it’s common to blame their behaviour on poor training, workplace politics or problems in the working environment. But the underlying issue could be much simpler: a lack of sleep.” Her research has found that lack of sleep may trigger a host of problems ranging from workplace performance difficulties to emotional and physical health issues. These problems can affect people of all ages and levels, with significant consequences for co-workers, teams and the overall organisation.
Leading elite sports sleep coach Nick Littlehales has been redefining sleep for over two decades, working with some of the world’s leading athletes and teams, including Liverpool FC, Manchester City and Formula 1. He believes that there is much to learn from the world of sport, and shares his unique approach to improving sleep, recovery, work performance and mental wellbeing as well as some daily actionable tips for everyone.
Professor Dr Andrew Sharman believes that the key to a life of health, wealth and wellbeing is, quite simply, sleep, yet it is so difficult and elusive to many of us. Teaming up with colleague Hari Kalymnios, they unveil some of the myths and secrets surrounding a good night’s sleep and what you need to know to create a longer, happier and healthier life.
In this era of digital retail, the transport industry has had to recruit a staggering number of new drivers. But how safe are they and are companies pushing their existing employees to work longer hours to make deliveries on time? DVLA’s Dr Inigo Perez discusses a range of common sleep conditions, including sleep apnoea, that can impair safe driving, and how DVLA assesses fitness to drive for those with sleep disorders. Meanwhile exhibitor Sleep Unlimited is on a mission to teach the world to sleep with their NICE recommended R.E.S.T. programme which uses cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBTi) and oximetry testing for sleep apnoea. Look out also for their training session on improving sleep in our Skills Zone and practical mindfulness workshops in our Wellness Lounge.
Here are some useful simple tips for employers:
- Address the issue of sleep – talk openly about it, share stories, use role models.
- Offer flexible hours and work patterns, particularly for shift workers.
- Ensure employees maintain a healthy work-life balance and encourage them to ‘switch off’ after hours – this is especially important in light of the current situation with many working from home.
- Don’t try and communicate with colleagues late at night – you are only encouraging them to use technology they should be staying clear of before sleeping.
- Encourage employees to stick to healthy sleep routines and to allow time to wind down before going to bed.
- Offer support in the form of training and sleep programmes.
- Understand warning signs, especially for safety critical workers.
Written by Lauren Sterling,
Health and Wellbeing at Work
If you would like to find solutions and examples of best practice in managing sleep and fatigue along with promoting workforce mental health and wellbeing, behaviour safety and resilience, then register today for Health and Wellbeing at Work Week, 15-19 March 2021. Only 13 days to go!