Sleep deprivation endangers employees and productivity
SLEEP deprivation is very dangerous to employers and employees, costing companies in the billions, and leaving workers prone to heart conditions, depression, headaches and obesity.
According to a recent survey conducted in the hospitality sector, sleep-deprived staff members were 14% more likely to be late for work and 19% more likely to make crucial errors.
Staff members who did not get enough sleep were also nearly twice as likely to be injured or killed in work-related accidents.
“When sleep deprived, a person’s ability to solve problems decreases by 57% and their decision-making abilities are reduced by 56%,” the Agility Corporate case study said.
Lizette Bester, productivity expert and Agility Corporate executive, said companies that operated over long hours required staff to work around the clock.
“However, working irregular hours can interfere with the body’s circadian rhythms, which regulate our sleeping patterns,” she said.
Sleep-deprived workers could have productivity problems, she said, stressing that it was important for companies to be mindful when keeping irregular hours.
“If not carefully managed, this can lead to a number of psychological problems for people working unconventional hours, which may be detrimental to productivity.”
It was important that companies looked for ways of minimising the potentially harmful effects that night work and irregular shifts could have on their employees – and also on their bottom line.
Highlighting the health risks that sleep-deprived people faced, Bester said: “It is interesting to note that people working for long stretches in artificial light, which may also interfere with circadian rhythms, can experience similar such ill effects, including depression and headaches.”
Many employers in the hospitality sector, in particular, struggled to develop adequate policies and procedures to effectively address workers’ needs and manage absenteeism without compromising on the level of service offered to guests, she said.
“Many employers are unaware of the risks associated with sleep deprivation, which can arise from working at night and irregular shifts.
“When people do not get quality sleep, it impacts on concentration and the ability to function properly.
“Employees may neglect their physical health, through unhealthy lifestyle choices including poor diet and lack of exercise.
“They may even turn to abusing substances, such as stimulants and sedatives, in an attempt to regulate their cycles of sleeping and wakefulness artificially,” Bester added.
It has been estimated that sleep deprivation costs businesses in the US an estimated $150 billion (R1.9 trillion) a year in absenteeism, workplace accidents and lost productivity.
While the impact of this had not been quantified in South Africa, Bester said it was important to regulate working hours and sleeping time.
‘Ability to solve problems decreases by 57%’