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For More Productive Workers, Concentrate on Their Bedtime, Not Their Booze

Employers often look to a potential employee’s social habits as an indication of how productive they are likely to be and how much they can rely upon them. But a recent study done in the United Kingdom has shown that employees who drink, smoke and overeat are not likely to be unproductive as long as they’re had the time to sleep it off. On the other hand, those who have gotten less than seven hours of sleep regardless of whether they’ve indulged or not are much more apt to fall short of expectations. Interestingly, the quantity of alcohol, cigarettes and food consumed had absolutely no impact on work rate.


The study was conducted collaboratively by researches from the University of Cambridge and Rand Europe. They accessed surveys that companies had asked their employees to complete as part of Vitality Health’s ‘Britain’s Healthiest Company’ completion, and found that when workers slept six hours or less, their productivity fell off sharply when compared to those who had managed to get the recommended seven or eight hours of sleep per night. The same was not true for those who fell prey to the vices traditionally believed to impact productivity.


According to Shaun Subel, Vitality Health’s director of strategy, “The data gives us a powerful new way to say to companies that you can almost set your objective: if you’re targeting just short-term productivity effects, these are the most important drivers you should probably be looking at. And if you’re concerned about the long-term health of your employees, these are the drivers. Importantly, you’ve got companies who want to do both.”


The study’s results are in keeping with previous research that has shown just how important sleep is to work product. In 2012, researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital were able to determine that the longer workers were awake while already sleep deprived, the more slowly they worked. At the time that the study was done, its senior author Jeanne Duffy had said, “Recognizing the important role that sufficient sleep quality and quantity play in health, safety and performance could not only improve worker production, but also worker health and safety.”


Reports like these are a big part of why so many companies are beginning to provide on-site napping spaces for their employees’ use.  It’s been shown that even a short twenty-minute nap can make a big difference in alertness and productivity, and is a good indication of commitment to overall wellness as well as to the bottom line. As a representative of Vermont-based ice cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry’s says, “If people need to catch a little snooze during the day to do the best possible job they can do, we’re behind it.”

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