Toolkit aims to help employers tackle sleep deprivation

Business in the Community and Public Health England have launched a toolkit to help employers reduce the risk of sleep deprivation and boost productivity in the workplace.

They claimed that 200,000 working days are lost every year due to employees not getting enough sleep. Those who carry out shift work, travel across different international time zones and those who drive for work present a particular health and safety risk.

The bodies said it was important that employers ensure their workforce is getting enough sleep, especially as this helps to maintain cognitive skills such as communicating well, thinking creatively, and remembering key information. Those who do not get enough sleep have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

Their Sleep and Recovery Toolkit encourages employers to create the right sleep culture in the workplace. This includes measures such as providing access to natural light, introducing flexitime for employees who travel or work across different time zones, and avoiding or reducing the frequency of emails sent outside of working hours

The toolkit also provides steps for early intervention before sleep deprivation becomes a problem. These include signposting information that may help employees get a better night’s sleep, redesigning individual workers’ jobs if it becomes apparent they could be tired, and encouraging staff to speak up about issues with sleep.

A number of measures to aid with recovery are also suggested, such as making sure employees stay hydrated, take screen breaks and use all of their annual leave entitlement.

Dr Justin Varney, national lead for adult health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said: “This toolkit contains lots of simple steps for employers of all sizes and sectors to take in supporting better sleep for staff and reducing or preventing work being the cause of sleep deprivation. It’s designed to support leaders, practitioners and line managers to create a workplace culture in which employees understand the need for sleep and recovery, as one strand of an integrated approach to maximising employee health and wellbeing.”

Louise Aston, wellbeing director at Business in the Community, added: “Sleep is still a largely neglected taboo topic for employers fearing they are crossing the line between work and peoples’ personal lives by even talking about it with employees. Gone are the days when it was in fashion to survive with five or six hours sleep.”

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