When did you last get a good night’s sleep?

When did you last get a good night’s sleep? Insomnia is a disease for our times, exacerbated by our increasingly stressful, ‘always-on’ digital lifestyles. Researchers have identified sleep deprivation as a major cause of lost productivity, costing an estimated $2K per employee annually (Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: Jan 2010). It’s also a major cause of workplace accidents with recent studies revealing that losing 1.5 hours sleep a night can reduce daytime alertness by 32%. That adds up to a lot of accidents. Drowsy drivers are as dangerous as drunken drivers and US accident statistics (100,000 crashes a year caused by driver fatigue) are enough to make you want to stay off the road for life.

For parents of young children, feeling TATT (tired all the time) becomes a way of life. As Boy George put it in his classic song, Karma chameleon, (though for different reasons) ‘everyday is like survival’. The worst fatigue I’ve ever experienced was after my third child was born. Five plus years of interrupted sleep can turn anyone into a raging zombie. Trying to hold down a stressful job at the same time takes its toll on your health and wellbeing. In those days, staying in a hotel room on a work trip was the greatest luxury imaginable, until I’d return home to face my wife after she’d suffered a sleepless night of coping on her own and then it would be my turn to go without sleep again.

In global companies, jet lag is a major occupational hazard. I remember once being in an important meeting with two colleagues who were both totally time zoned out, rambling incoherently like a pair of punch drunk boxers and incapable of a sensible thought between them. One of my colleagues stood up from the table, leant his forehead against the cool wall and promptly fell asleep while standing on his feet.

Some social commentators describe sleep as ‘the new sex’. I think many people will relate to this concept. What does it mean for forward thinking employers? Will we see offices with sleep cubicles, or perhaps dormitories, for people to take forty winks during the working day? I’d be interested to know of any companies that already do this. In my experience, any sensible manager knows when to send an employee home, but few managers will go home themselves when they’re too tired to make any sense.

Post script
Since writing this article, I stumbled across an interesting article in Bloomberg’s Business Week magazine about US companies such as Nike and Google that have already installed ‘napping rooms’ in their offices. Meanwhile, Manhattan based companies can now ‘outsource sleep’ to daytime ‘napping spas’ such as Yello. It also introduced me to the concept of a ‘napping chair’ called an EnergyPod, that can be rented for a mere $795 per month!


Mondayphobia is no irrational fear

My journey to work today was delayed by half an hour due to someone becoming seriously ill on the Jubilee underground line. I’ve no idea what happened to this unfortunate person  (in spite of my delayed journey, I genuinely wish them well!) but I found myself reflecting how often this happens on a Monday.

There is scientific evidence that we are at a 20% higher  risk of a heart attack on a Monday morning than any other day of the week.  Not only are mornings generally a bad time, due to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, but also, as researchers at Tokyo Women’s Medical University discovered, our blood pressure and heart rate rises due to the stress of returning to work. This syndrome, similar to jet lag, has recently been termed as ‘social lag’ – the readjustment to early starts that we subject our bodies to every Monday after a weekend of late nights and lie-ins.

It’s no perhaps no surprise therefore that Monday is also the most popular day for employees to pull a sickie. According to research by Mercers, an astonishing 35% of all sick leave is taken on a Monday, compared to only 3% on a Friday.

In a separate  study by Mind, the UK mental health charity, researchers found that 25% of people say that their weekends are ruined by the thought of having to return to work on a Monday – a sobering thought for any employer or manager.

As someone who officially ‘likes Mondays’, I’m aware that I’m championing a counter-trend. Following the theme of my most recent blog post on health & safety, employee engagement professionals have a crucial role to play in helping people combat their mondayphobia. By helping create a great place to work for employees, we’re not only promoting the general happiness of mankind, we’re also saving lives into the bargain. Inspired by such a noble cause such, is it any wonder that I regularly skip off to work on a Monday morning?