Most companies now place a high premium on employee health and fitness, but what about sleep? Is sleep policy the next thing?
If built-in health and fitness programs are the new signifier of holistically-minded workplaces, is sleep the next frontier? As employers invest more and more into their worker’s wellbeing, will we soon be witness to, as Sophie McBain suggests in the Financial Review, “a future in which turning up to work bleary-eyed is considered a faux pas akin to showing up drunk”?
At the headquarters of Zappos in Las Vegas, Nevada, a nap room has been an office space staple since they launched. The online retailer, who has made headlines in the past for their fully-subsidised employee health insurance policy, offers a room replete with recliners and beanbag chairs on a round-the-clock basis to employees.
“We know how much sleep impacts wellbeing,” explained a representative for the company. “It was born from our focus on employee happiness and wellness.”
They’re not the only ones who have taken the importance of workers getting adequate shut eye into their own hands. Nike, Google and NASA all provide quiet spaces where workers can meditate, shut their eyes, or take a full-blown power nap during their working day.
While such provisions might appear the enterprise of new age companies and large corporations, in fact, employee wellbeing isn’t the only benefit of such programs. Another big bonus: improved employee performance.
A new study out of the University of Rochester has found the first direct evidence for what we already know: that sleep is imperative to your brain performing at its best. Their research found that sleep allows your body to remove toxic proteins from its neurons, which are the result of neural activity when you’re awake. Because they can only be removed adequately during sleep, a lack of ZZZs means that these toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, impairing your ability to think.
Naps have also been proven more effective than coffee at warding off the afternoon slump, when our body amps up melatonin production and hits us with a bout of post-lunch sleepiness.
So, if you’re not already working at Zappos or Google, what can HR managers do to promote positive sleep habits for their teams – particularly in high-pressure environments where looming deadlines compel workers to stay late at the office?
According to a white paper by Christopher Barnes, assistant professor of management at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, and Gretchen M. Spreitzer, professor of business administration and professor of management and organisations at the Ross School of Business, the key is ensuring that organisational leaders appreciate the value of healthy sleep schedules.
Simple practices, such as encouraging employees to take “time away from their phones – even if it is only one night a week” or using “an email feature that allows you to send them during work hours, like Boomerang for Gmail” can go a long way towards helping employees work at their highest capacity.