When it comes to supporting the wellbeing of your employees, there are a number of steps that employers can take. Whether it's taking measures to care for older employees, or those with chronic illness, or simply offering corporate health insurance, there are many benefits to being proactive about the health of your workforce.
However, sometimes the issues that plague employees can be more subtle, such as sleep deprivation. Here we look at the toll of sleep deprivation on the Australian people, as well as what research says you can do to combat it.
Sleep deprivation in Australia
The nation is the midst of a 'sleep deprivation epidemic', according to the Sleep Health Foundation (SHF). A new study by the SHF has shed light on the alarming state of sleep across Australia, finding 33-45 per cent of adults get either poor quality, or an insufficient amount of sleep most nights. This leaves them prone to effects such as fatigue, sleepiness and irritability during the day.
"These worrying results just go to show that sleep is not the national health priority it needs to be," says Dr David Hillman from the SHF. "Just like obesity, smoking, drinking too much and not exercising enough, sleep problems cause real harm in our community. It's high time we moved this issue off the backburner to the forefront of national thinking."
The effect of sleep deprivation on the workforce
According to the study, 17 per cent of people missed work due to feeling sleepy, while another 17 percent had actually fallen asleep while at work. Poor sleep also resulted in 29 per cent of adult respondents making errors at work over the past three months.
Additionally, the study noted that those with sleep problems were 'more likely to report decreased work productivity'.
"It's been fascinating to see the cultural shift in the business world. Business leaders are waking up to the high costs of sleep deprivation on productivity, creativity, healthcare and ultimately, the bottom line," says Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post and author of The Sleep Revolution.
How the office environment can contribute towards sleep quality
In addition to being an advocate for sleep health, employers can also make changes in the workplace to help support their employee's sleep.
According to a study by Northwestern University, the more natural light exposure an office has, the better employees' sleep duration. In the study, employees whose workplace had windows slept on average 46 minutes more each night than those who didn't receive such natural light exposure.
Co-lead author Dr Mohamed Boubekri suggested that offices make the more of natural light by ensuring workstations were no more than approximately 6-7.5 metres away from the windows:
"Daylight from side windows almost vanishes after 20 to 25 feet from the windows," said Dr Boubekri.
How else can you support your employees' health?
To give your employees the support they need to stay healthy and reduce the cost of turnover, it could be time to invest in a business health insurance plan. Whether you're a small business, or a larger corporation, HICA is dedicated to helping you find the best fit. Contact HICA today to find out more.