Sleep de­pri­va­tion en­dan­gers em­ploy­ees and pro­duc­tiv­ity

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - MATLHATSI DIBAKWANE

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%’

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