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Growth Strategies / Ask Entrepreneur

To Build a High-Performing Company Your Team Needs a Good Night's Sleep Every Night

Build a sleep-first company, and it will pay off through increased revenue, reputation and employee engagement.
To Build a High-Performing Company Your Team Needs a Good Night's Sleep Every Night
Image credit: Tetra Images | Getty Images
- Guest Writer
Author, Consultant, Nutrition & Sleep Coach
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Companies pay billions of dollars each year for specific trainings in hopes of boosting their overall performance. Companies attempt to improve culture through offering craft beer, ping pong tables, and catered lunches on Friday, among many other things.

These are all great ideas, but isn’t solving the elephant in the room that’s holding companies back. When it comes to cultivating a high performing culture and company, it starts by addressing your employees well being -- in particular, their fatigue levels.

Forty-three percent of Americans rarely get a good night’s sleep on weeknights, while two-thirds admit that their sleep needs aren’t being met. The average person admits to needing 7.5 hours of nightly sleep to feel refreshed. Yet, they’re only getting six hours and 55 minutes of sleep.

This may seem insignificant, but factor this number up over the course of the year and a large sleep debt forms.

Related: 15 Unexpected Things That Are Stealing Your Sleep 

In a Sleep in America poll, 29 percent of workers reported falling asleep or coming close to it while at work. Costs attributed to sleep deprivation in the U.S. alone was $411 billion. To break this down further, a fatigue cost calculator developed through the Sleep Matters Initiative at Brigham Health for the National Safety Council estimated that an employer with 1,000 workers is expected to lose about $1.4 million dollars each year due to fatigue.

Sleep deprived workers aren’t merely costing companies money, they’re also affecting a companies culture, reputation and ability to impact the world, as well as recruiting and retaining talent. If you want to cultivate a high performing company and culture, it starts with injecting sleep into the DNA of the company for these three reasons. 

1. Mental performance.

What’s a lost hour or two when there’s more work to do -- or more hustling as we like to call it these days? Everything.

While you may hear people clamor about how little sleep they need, this is a false narrative that’s sending a message that sleep is disposable and optional. Sleep is nutrition for your brain and when you’re not properly recharging, your mind isn’t able to cognitively perform at a high level. In fact, sleeping consistently for only six hours nightly over a two week period leads to the same cognitive performance as someone staying up for 24 consecutive hours.

With all of this said, to help swing the fatigue pendulum in a more positive direction, designate an area for naps and recharging or invest in a few nap pods. A 20-minute nap isn’t going to cure the sleep-loss epidemic, but it can slightly improve employees' reasoning skills, memory, and creativity, while lessening the chances of developing burnout.

2. Leadership

High performing and emotionally savvy leaders are cultivated through consistent high-quality sleep. While leadership requires a high level of executive brain functioning, leadership also requires you to be charismatic and inspiring.

However, when you’re sleep deprived, your ability to charm and inspire others decreases. This happens due to it being harder to control emotions and connect effectively with others. When you’re sleep deprived, your prefrontal cortex (logic and reasoning) experiences lower activity while your amygdala (heightened emotions) increases in activity.

This leads to a workforce that is irritable, short-tempered, and less empathetic toward one another and the potential customers they interact with.

Related: 16 Things That Lack of Sleep Can Do to You, According to Science

When it comes to improving your workforces ability to lead themselves and others, establish sleep-friendly policies. For example, support boundaries between work and leisure by establishing specific cutoff times where employees can make themselves unavailable until the next day.

3. 'Presenteeism.'

In 2011, Harvard scientists estimated that sleep deprivation costs U.S. Companies $63.2 billion in lost productivity, mainly because of "presenteeism." While absenteeism garners most of the spotlight, the workers who show up but produce subpar work is as big of an issue.

In fact, researchers discovered that for every hour of sleep lost the night before, employees waste approximately 8.4 more minutes browsing online during the workday.

To help with presenteeism issues, start implementing flexible start times to accommodate individuals chronotypes. Some people thrive early in the morning while others take a little longer due to being night owls that fall asleep later. To accommodate night owls, allow them to arrive mid-morning.

Lastly, to keep productivity high and maintain cohesion, designate times in the middle of the day (11 am to 3 pm, for example) for when the entire team needs to be present. Being flexible with start times leads to employees being more likely to function at their best and to have higher engagement.

It’s time to change the narrative about sleep. With proper amounts of sleep, your employees will recharge their brains, strengthen their bodies, and arrive at the workplace in a more friendly and productive mood, which is beneficial to your company's workers, customers and bottom line.

Related: How CEOs Optimize Their Sleep Schedule

Sleep isn’t the enemy nor a sign of weakness, it’s your most important asset to creating a high performing company and culture.

Why Aren't Entrepreneurs Getting Enough Sleep?