Fighting Sleep Is a Losing Management Strategy. Let Your Employees Take Naps.
An exhausted employee who naps is unproductive for a few minutes. One who doesn't nap is unproductive all day.
When we hear “naptime,” most of us think of small children who are lucky enough to have sleep scheduled into their day. At some point, these naps stop being scheduled, and it becomes taboo to get rest throughout the day.
Unfortunately, this stigma attached to catching some much-needed zzz’s throughout the day is hurting employees’ productivity, motivation and their ability to perform everyday tasks. In fact, according to “The Cost of Working Tired,” a report by Accountemps, 77 percent of men and 71 percent of women admit to often working while tired.
Jason Cummins, owner of All Hours Air, a 24-hour heating and air conditioning company headquartered in Sparks, Nev., witnessed first-hand what extreme tiredness can do to employees.
“I had an engineer once who always came in late to work because he had insomnia. I knew it was affecting his work because he got simple instructions wrong and didn't produce much in the office,” Cummins told me via email.
Cummins jumped at the opportunity to help by changing his employee’s schedule to a time when he was feeling more productive and awake. Even the best employees can fall victim to becoming overly tired and worn out. Here’s how leaders can encourage them to have a snooze and increase productivity:
Have a nap room.
A lack of sleep can make people do some funny -- or not so funny -- things. The Accutemps report found 52 percent of employees feel distracted and unable to focus when tired at work, which causes employees to make mistakes they wouldn’t normally make.
Michael Steinitz, executive director for Accountemps, a temporary accounting and finance hiring resource headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif., witnessed what sleep deprivation can do when his company surveyed professionals.
“One person admitted to deleting a project that took 1,000 hours to put together and another missed a decimal point on an estimated payment, causing the client to overpay by $1 million,” Steinitz shared with me in an email.
To help prevent employees from making these errors, Steinitz suggests encouraging employees to take breaks -- and don’t forget to lead by example.
“Some professionals and management may choose to forgo breaks to get their work done. But remind staff that a tired employee isn't an effective or productive one. Everyone needs an occasional break to recharge,” he said.
Make rest and relaxation part of the company’s corporate culture by adding napping areas or rooms. Explain to your team that to stay productive it's crucial they take breaks and close their eyes, even if only for a few minutes. Encourage team members to bring in their own blankets and pillows to make them even more comfortable when cozying up for a midday snooze.
“A company’s employees are its greatest strength -- especially their health and happiness,” Michael Susi, the global wellness manager at LinkedIn from San Francisco told me via email.
That’s why Susi and LinkedIn have committed to making sleep their wellness focus for 2017. To kick it all off, the company held its first annual sleep fair in New York.
“The goal of the event was to educate employees on the importance of sleep and share advice on how to get a good night’s rest,” Susi explained.
LinkedIn’s program included a sleep ambassador teaching employees the best techniques for making a bed in order to get the most comfortable sleep.
While some employers don’t have the resources to hold large events, there are other effective ways to keep employees informed about healthy sleep habits. For example, Optimity, a corporate wellness company, equips their team with a fully loaded library of content on better sleep.
“We focus on building small habits that improve the quality and consistency of your sleep patterns. The most popular ones are educational about good sleep hygiene and action focused about habit-hacking your way into more consistent practices that synchronizes your circadian rhythm to maximize your sleep cycles,” Jane Wang, CEO of Optimity located in San Francisco, told me via email.
Whether holding a large event or giving employees educational tips throughout the year, it’s important to remain proactive in their efforts to find healthy sleep patterns. For LinkedIn’s sleep fair attendees, this motivation came in the form of analog clocks to encourage disconnection from their digital devices at night and maximize their rest.
Also, try inspiring team members to take care of themselves by bringing in sleep experts, offering fun cooking classes with recipes that enhance sleep or host a team bonding where employees create their own aroma therapies.
When employees are making mistakes -- especially costly ones -- it can be difficult to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. But that’s exactly what Mike Seidle, co-founder of WorkHere, a job search app located in Indianapolis, did when one team member was making multiple mistakes.
“After sitting down with the employee, we discovered he was having problems with medication and got him to see his doctor to get it fixed,” Seidle said to me in an email. “About the worse thing you can do with tired employees is assume it's just not getting enough sleep. It's amazing the answers you get when you say, ‘You've looked really tired the last few days, is everything OK?’"
Take on the responsibility of employees’ health and sleep issues. Start by asking how they’re doing if they seem off or are making more mistakes than usual. Let them know they’re supported and not being judged or reprimanded.
Once an employee opens up, give them time to catch up on their sleep or see a doctor. Offer flexible working hours, the opportunity to work remotely or the option to catch up on work over the weekend.
Be flexible with new parents.
Naptime is important for newborns, and it’s necessary for moms and dads as well. Just because parental leave has ended, doesn’t mean the struggles of being a new parent have.
Joanna Douglas, owner of Clean Affinity Cleaning Service, a cleaning service agency located in Portland, Ore., recognized this when a new mom returned to work.
“I had an employee once who came into work after maternity leave and found it hard to work because her baby kept her up all night,” Douglas told me via email. “I gave her a schedule that allowed her to get eight hours of work, and also go home, rest and take care of her baby at the end of the day.”
When a team member returns from parental leave, take them aside to show that leaders understand their current situation and are willing to help them get back to work. Allow them to take more control of their own schedules. This could range from letting them go home during the day to nap, to taking breaks throughout the day to get some shuteye.