An Overlooked Factor in Workplace Productivity

When you’re managing an office full of employees, one of your top priorities should be increasing productivity. Your team can only offer a healthy return on your investment in them if they work to the best of their abilities. As a result, managers try many different tactics – such as holding constant meetings, or publishing production reports – to ensure that employees are working at their best everyday. However, there’s one overlooked factor that has a significant effect on productivity – and it has nothing to do with the office itself.

Charles Czeisler, head of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, recently told The Boston Globe that sleep is one of the three main pillars of good health alongside exercise and eating well – and that sleep deprivation can cause major damage to the output of a given office or organization.

“We are at the same place that the impact of smoking was on health 50 years ago, when finally there was enough evidence that the surgeon general issued a report indicating that smoking was hazardous to people’s health,” Czeisler told The Boston Globe.

Czeisler went on to note that regular sleep deprivation can cause an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and other diseases, in addition to causing problems throughout the workplace.

Causing problems in offices everywhere

Getting an increased return on investment from employees is a challenging task for any manager. The most direct way to do this is by increasing the workload of each employee, but there are negative implications to that strategy, including damaged employee morale. Another approach would be to align each employee to their highest level of contribution in the organization. This can be done by outsourcing time consuming job responsibilities that limit the amount of high level, value driving activity each employee can dedicate time to. However, an overlooked factor in improving productivity is ensuring employees get the necessary amount of sleep on a nightly basis.

As a result, some businesses are even taking proactive measures to ensure that employees are well rested. BusinessWeek, for example, recently reported that Bank of America issued a memo demanding that its employees take off at least four weekend days per month, as opposed to working through Saturday and Sunday. The news outlet went on to note that Americans tend to work through their daily meals, work longer hours and retire at a later age than their counterparts in most other regions of the world.

Czeisler told The Boston Globe that businesses should be sure to motivate their employees to get as much rest as possible, bolstering efforts such as those undertaken by Bank of America. His Division of Sleep Medicine has developed formal sleep policy standards for companies. These policies, for example, encourage businesses to offer their employees regular time away from checking emails, to screen for sleep disorders, and to take other preventative measures that can help employees to stay well rested – and as a result, stay efficient.

“We fool ourselves into thinking missing a little bit of sleep here and there is no big deal,” Christopher Barnes, associate professor of management at the University of Washington, told The Boston Globe. “The data indicate it can be a big deal.”