The S Word That is Killing Employee Productivity

Raffa Financial ServicesRaffa Financial Services on 03/01/2018

If the word Sales or Service jumps to mind, you’re only partially correct. It is true that if you have ineffective or undefined processes within your organization, both of these activities can suck up inordinate amounts of time.

But there’s another silent productivity killer that is often overlooked.

A very basic thing we all struggle with, and that can be detrimental to employee output and efficiency.


Not-so-sweet dreams?

You may be wondering what sleep has to do with workplace productivity. If so, just think about the last time you only logged a few hours of it— and how you performed the next day.

One CareerBuilder sleep study paints a fascinating picture of how sleep affects employee productivity. Of the 3,200 workers surveyed:

  • 61% reported that sleep deprivation affected their work in one or more ways
  • 58% said they didn’t get enough sleep
  • 44% admitted that just thinking about work kept them up at night
  • Only 16% reported getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night

Research clearly shows that lack of sleep has negative effects on concentration, reaction time, decision making, and memory. People who are sleep deprived have trouble completing many tasks that require logical reasoning or complex thought. So much so, one study reported that being sleep deprived is basically the same as being drunk.

This isn’t just a productivity nightmare, it’s a safety nightmare.

But while we would never even consider allowing someone to be drunk at work, we often don’t think twice about allowing sleep-deprived employees to come in and do their jobs. Sometimes, we even encourage it.

Why do we do this?

Many times it’s because we can’t clearly see or quantify the negative effects of over-tired employees. Or we view it strictly as a personal problem. But is it, really?

To some extent, yes. Your employees are in charge of their own sleep habits, but work is definitely a factor in how many quality sleeps they are able to get.

While you may only see your staff and colleagues working during their scheduled shifts, what you might not see is just how much work is also creeping into their “off” hours and/or causing them to lose sleep.

If you want to increase employee productivity, it may be time to own up to the role you may be playing in your employees’ sleepless nights.

There are many work-related reasons why your employees are finding it harder and harder to get enough sleep, including increased commute time, hours, expectations, and workloads. Rotating shift work and stressful work environments can also affect sleep patterns.

Can employers really help?

Yes! But there is no magic, easy solution. If you really want to make a difference, you’ll need to take a close look at your current processes and environment and address any problem areas.  

Mitigate commute times – Allow employees to adjust their schedules to avoid traffic delays. Consider telecommuting options.

Establish boundaries – Expecting employees to be “on” 24/7 isn’t good for anyone. Encourage your staff (and yourself!) to unplug when at home and provide flexible paid time off.

Realistic workloads – An overloaded team is a tired team. Check in regularly to see if workloads are manageable and achievable. If not, make adjustments.

Reasonable hours – Are those long shifts really necessary? Would your staff gladly trade a few hours of overtime for a few hours of sleep? Maybe it’s time to do some hiring.

Make rotating shifts work – Shift work can really mess with sleep patterns. If your business requires round-the-clock staff, try to make it as painless as possible. Enforce break policies. Consider on-site exercise and/or quiet rooms. Provide adequate hydration. And coffee is always appreciated!

Reduce workplace stress – Take the pulse of your staff regularly and work with leadership to address any trouble areas. Build a strong culture of teamwork and communication. Recognize people for their hard work, and remember to have some fun.

Set achievable goals – How are you defining achievement? Are the goals and measurements you have in place realistic? Are you giving your team the tools they need to be successful?

The idea of examining your HR and business processes from a sleep perspective may seem unconventional, but don’t let that stop you. You can’t drive great results if your employees are asleep at the wheel.


Tired of working with insurance salespeople who only think one year at a time? Wonder what it would be like to have a broker who looks beyond your annual policy? At Raffa Financial, we’ll provide a corporate employee benefits strategy to help you achieve your long-term your vision. Get in touch to find out how.


Photo by Antonio Guillem 

Want our business blogs delivered to you?

Enter your email address below to start receiving updates in your inbox!