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  • Writer's pictureEdwin and George

Want to be more Productive? Try Sleeping on it

The Australian economy has a productivity problem (the amount we each produce). ‘We need innovation not just in the technologies we use but in our business models and practices as well.’ (‘The Conversation’ 7th September 2017).

We have a simpler answer. And it’s very simple……’we hope you fall asleep reading this blog.’

You see, we think the Australian productivity problem could be solved by a change in tactics much closer to home – in the bedroom, to be exact.

Believe it or not, research shows that people who sleep less than 6-hours a night on a regular basis are 2.5 per cent less productive at work than those who sleep between 7-9 hours. (See, for example, ‘Why sleep matters. The economic costs of insufficient sleep’). If this could be improved, Australia’s productivity problem would be solved overnight (ha ha).

It gets worse.

If you sleep less than 6-hours a night you are statistically more likely to:

  • Be absent from work

  • Have low concentration during the day due to tiredness

  • Make mistakes (more likely to have a car crash, for example) and

  • Suffer disease; early death, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

And the reality is the pressures on people to take less sleep are increasing; including, changes in our social lives and the use of technology (smart phones have a lot to answer for).

No doubt we all admire the hard-hitting businessmen or politicians who work to the limit and make a virtue of lack of sleep. But science shows that only 1 per cent of the population are naturally ‘short sleepers.’

Sadly, both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, two heads of State who were very vocal and almost proud of sleeping only 4- hours a day, both went on to develop Alzheimer’s.

In his book ‘Why we Sleep,’ Matthew Walker (a neuroscience professor at the University of California), says that the lack of sleep ‘is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our life expectancy, our safety and our productivity.’

Between 7-9 hours is the healthy balance.

So, what can companies do? Here are some ideas from the EGM team:

  • Recognise the importance of sleep and raise awareness of the issue

  • Ban e-mails after a certain time at night and have a ‘no email policy’ at the weekend

  • Stop imposing unnecessarily tight project / work deadlines on staff to reduce stress levels

  • Think about flexible working (say working from home a day or so each week) – long commutes don’t help anyone

  • Start the work day later (research in the USA shows that starting the school day later increases student performance)

  • Avoid having staff on irregular shift patters

  • Encourage the use of wearable devices that measure sleep

  • Provide support to staff who struggle with sleep, say counselling

  • And yes, have Google style nap areas that staff can use to take 40 winks at lunchtime.

And for those of who you not convinced, watch this short Ted Talk from Arianna Huffington where she gives a new meaning to the phrase ‘sleeping your way to the top.’

(Warning, please don’t watch this video if it’s past your normal bedtime).

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