March 17 marks World Sleep Day, the global call to action to improve our sleep awareness for better health and wellbeing. But did you know that better sleep can also be the key to improving your company’s productivity? Read on to find out how supporting your employees’ sleep habits can boost their daily output.

A poor night’s sleep is enough to ruin anyone’s day. Short term implications include poor focus, irritability, reduced concentration, and a higher chance of succumbing to stress. Even the occasional night of sleep disruption can have a huge impact on your employees’ workday. In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to more serious problems with our immune system, mental and cardiovascular health, and even increase the risk of dementia and diabetes. Prioritising good sleep hygiene should be a vital part of our everyday health habits.

The personal and financial impact of poor sleep

It’s estimated that almost three-quarters of UK adults don’t have the recommended seven to nine hours’ sleep a night – even more worryingly, 14% of us survive on less than five hours a night, a level considered dangerously low by medical professionals.

But what’s causing our nation’s sleepless nights? Various studies list a range of reasons that people experience poor sleep, with the most common causes typically listed as money worries, health concerns, and work stress.

According to Mental Health UK, 37% of adults in the UK feel that work reduces the control they have over their sleep.

The UK’s exhaustion epidemic is having a knock-on effect on the economy. Research by RAND Europe suggests that the productivity losses caused by poor sleep costs the UK economy on average £37 billion a year – that’s around 2% of the nation’s GDP!

Is my workplace supporting my team’s sleep hygiene?

“But I don’t set my employees’ bedtimes – how are workplaces supposed to support their teams’ sleep?”

Whilst our environment is a key part of a healthy sleep routine, it’s just as important to provide the right daytime environment. This helps our brains recognise the switchover between work and rest. Thankfully, the benefits of a wellbeing-friendly work environment don’t just stop at supporting better sleep!

  • Natural light – Filling your office or workspace with soft, natural light is a great way to protect your employees’ eyesight, as well as being a proven mood-booster and helps our brains to visually distinguish work from rest.
  • Rest-friendly breakout areas – High levels of sustained concentration throughout the day can make it harder for our brains to wind down before bed. Providing separate, quiet breakout areas for employees to unwind can support not just better sleep, but also improved mental wellbeing during the day.
  • Wellbeing friendly workplaces – Building a wellbeing-focused workplace can feel like a daunting new challenge for many employers. That’s why many look to workplace wellbeing experts like Health@Work for support, training, and even review and accreditation.

What can employers do directly to improve sleep?

So, you know that good sleep is integral to your employees’ wellbeing, and the impact this has on productivity – what next? When it comes to improving sleep hygiene, the simplest changes can make the biggest differences.

  • Be presenteeism-aware – New ways of hybrid working can lead to workplaces inadvertently developing an ‘always-on culture’, with employees feeling unable to switch off when not in work and even when ill. Encouraging leaders and managers to set healthy boundaries for both themselves and employees can play a major role in improving mental health and sleep practices.
  • Encourage practical support – Providing your employees with support for both work and home concerns can provide them with the peace of mind they need to wind down at night. An employee assistance programme can provide your workforce with both practical advice and emotional support – and with a Medicash health plan, your employees can access these services for free, 24/7.
  • Encourage psychological safety – Psychological safety means fostering a transparent, open working culture where employees feel able to ask for support and raise concerns without fear of backlash. With many sleepless nights being attributed to workplace stress, training your leadership team to foster psychological safety in the workplace can make all the difference to your employees’ stress levels.

Offering your employees everyday – or every night – sleep support

From music to meditation, there are a myriad of ways to help nudge our brains into sleep mode – and in our digital era, they’ve never been more accessible.

As part of Medicash’s range of digital health benefits, your employees can access the wellbeing support app mProve YOURSELF. In the app, your employees can access both sleep-promoting guided meditations and sleep training courses – and this month, in honour of World Sleep Day, we’re releasing ten exclusive new sleep stories to help users both switch off and drift off after a long day.

Want to find out more about how you can provide your workforce exclusive access to the mProve YOURSELF app and our brand new sleep stories? Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you to support your employees’ wellbeing.