Sleepiness In The Workplace
Tiredness on the job is widespread. A study by the Virgin Pulse Institute done in November 2013 with 1,140 respondents from three U.S.-based companies reported that:
• 76% of workers felt tired almost every day of the week.
• 40% dosed off at least once during the month.
• 30% were unhappy or very unhappy with both the quality and quantity of their sleep.
• 15% dozed off at least once a week or once a day.
While the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adult workers get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, many average fewer than 6, which may be less than what they need to perform their daily activities at home and at work. For a myriad of reasons, employees may come to work too tired to offer top performance.
In order of importance, factors at home or in their personal lives that contribute to the lack of sleep might include:
• Temperature too hot or too cold 85%
• Unwanted noise 68.6%
• Light too bright 2.8%
• Poor mattress 40%
• Young children 35.9%
• Medical conditions that disturb sleep 10.2%
However, some tiredness on the job can be the result of workplace-related issues. Performance and safety issues that are the result of tiredness and fatigue often happen when employees:
• Work shifts, especially alternating shifts that require rebooting their circadian rhythms.
• Perform hard physical labor.
• Work excessive overtime.
• Work without breaks and/or meals.
• Engage in tedious, repetitive tasks.
• Work in an environment with poor control of temperature, lighting, and noise.
As noted in a recent article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, tired workers will exhibit certain signs if there is a sleep related issue.
• Physical Signs
They show physical signs, such as a drooped head or eyelids, frequent yawning, rubbing their eyes, or micro-sleeping for very short periods of time.
• Mental And Performance Signs
They show mental and performance signs that may manifest as an inability to concentrate, inattention, forgetting to communicate information, compromised memory and recall, and incorrectly performing tasks.
• Emotional And Behavioral Signs
They show emotional and behavioral signs, such as uncharacteristic quietness, withdrawal, moodiness, low energy, and lacking motivation to perform work well.
A poll done by Sleep in America, breaks down symptoms of people who are sleepy. They have trouble:
• Concentrating on what is said 68%
• Handling stress 65%
• Relating with others 38%
• Handling problem-solving tasks 57%
• Listening 57%
• Decision-making 56%
Many of these conditions lead to sleep deprivation, inability to fall asleep, or inability to get enough sleep to be alert on the job. Since about 25% of American workers are on permanent or rotating shifts, they may suffer from shift work sleep disorders, other circadian rhythm disorders, or be subject to increase risk for accidents while driving or operating machinery. Those who have respiratory problems such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy can incapacitate a driver, threatening their life and the lives of the people around them. This is such a concern that the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires a screening of potential employees.
Issues Important To Address
That’s not the only risk sleep issues can pose to your employees and your business. Sleepy workers often:
• Are late to work 14%
• Stay home from work 4%
• Fall sleep on the job 7%
• Make errors 19%
• Get injured 2%
Workers who do not get enough sleep do not function as well on the job, are subject to injuries, and have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression. They have more accidents, as evidenced from studies about personnel in airline transportation, the medical field, safety personnel, trucking, and many other industries that include night hours and shifts. As a result, productivity falls, along with employee health and safety, which leads to a rise in employer health insurance payments, as well as in worker’s compensation rates, if people are injured on the job.
As an employer, you have a major stake in reducing employer fatigue, sleepiness, and tiredness.