What scientists say about sleep and work

A lack of sleep can radically impact an employee’s productivity. What — if anything — can management do about it?

A study on the effect of insufficient sleep among employees has concluded that the topic of sleep gets short shrift in management education — and that can cause problems with productivity and effectiveness at work.

The study, authored by Christopher M. Barnes, Maartje E. Schouten and Evelyn Van de Even, concluded that 29.9% of workers in the United States got less than six hours of sleep in a typical night.

“A growing literature is uncovering a variety of negative effects of sleep deprivation,” the authors write. The study cites “cognitive area, poor performance, distorted risk analysis and negative interpersonal behavior” as risk factors when employees aren’t getting enough sleep.

“These are highly relevant outcomes in an increasingly dynamic society in which work is often organized in teams,” the authors write. “Despite this prevalence of employees working on insufficient levels of sleep, and the litany of negative outcomes associated with this, management education largely ignores the topic of sleep.”

And that needs to change, the authors assert. Managers need to understand the role sleep plays in employee performance — and make sure employees have at least the opportunity to get a full night’s rest. And that means that those responsible for training managers need to devote more to stress the importance of sleep.

“It is the responsibility of management educators to produce the best possible leaders,” they write. “Such leaders understand at a concrete level that sleep deprivation has a negative impact on short-term and long-term performance and employee well-being.”

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