How rested are UK workers when they arrive at their places of work each morning and what impact does this have? Research suggests that sleep deprivation is having a huge impact on a range of key factors, from performance through to overall health and wellbeing, but can HR professionals REALLY do anything about it? The answer is yes.

Lack of sleep – the facts!

Latest findings from The O.C. Tanner Institute* which surveyed 476 UK working adults at companies with 500+ employees, found that just 34 per cent of UK workers feel rested on waking up. On top of this, just over half (51 per cent) go to work feeling fully alert and a mere 17 per cent of UK workers are getting the recommended eight hours sleep per night. The statistics are alarming!

So why is this a problem? We all know that sleep deprivation can make us feel below par, but what impact is it having on workplaces across the country?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, productivity and performance are impacted by sleep deprivation. 89 per cent of those surveyed admitted that they don’t work to their full potential when tired. Being sleep-deprived also damages people’s physical, emotional, social and psychological wellbeing.

In fact, according to Public Health England, lack of sleep is costing the UK economy £30 billion per annum and 200,000 lost working days every year, with those impacted by sleep deprivation exhibiting a range of symptoms from poor concentration and decreased communication through to an irritable mood and increased levels of sickness.

Lack of sleep is therefore a huge workplace issue and a major barrier to achieving a healthy, positive and motivated workforce. Organisations no longer have the luxury of sitting back and ignoring its detrimental impacts.

But what can HR do to motivate change?

Encouraging healthier lifestyles.

Obviously, there’s only a certain amount HR can do to encourage workers to get a good night’s sleep ready for work the next day, after all they can’t tuck staff members into bed each night! However, steps can be taken to encourage healthier lifestyles.

Firstly, it’s important for organisations to champion a health and wellbeing culture in which employees’ health is seen as a key priority. This must include encouraging a good work-life balance so that working late and sending work emails out of office hours are discouraged. When staff take annual leave, there shouldn’t be an automatic expectation to take a work call or check emails as this doesn’t allow them to properly ‘switch-off’.

It’s also vital for organisations to work in partnership with staff to encourage healthier lifestyle habits rather than ‘dictating’ how staff should behave.

One of the initiatives that has worked well at O.C. Tanner has been to provide all employees with a ‘wearable’ device which allows them to track their exercise and sleep patterns. Having ‘real-time’ insights to hand has encouraged many staff to behave in healthier ways.

Rewarding staff who take steps to develop healthier habits can also inspire positive lifestyle changes, as can setting day-by-day wellbeing challenges. These challenges could include inviting staff to take part in a ‘step count’ competition or a week-long ‘8 hours per night’ sleep challenge. By introducing healthy competition, this can inspire even the most unhealthy staff to behave differently.

The key to enticing behavioural change including improvements to sleeping habits, is to make it voluntary, fun and all-inclusive. And by putting health and wellbeing at the centre of the company, this will lead to a happier, fitter and more engaged workforce.

*The O.C. Tanner Institute is a global forum that researches and shares insights to help organisations inspire and appreciate great work. The Institute regularly conducts, commissions and publishes some of the most exhaustive (and referenced) studies on recognition and engagement on earth.