6 ways to help your employees get a good night’s rest

August 21, 2023

For plan members, sponsors and administrators

Why getting a reduced amount of sleep could be making your people less productive

We’ve all been there. It’s long past the time when you know you should be heading to bed, but…

  • The baby won’t settle.
  • You need to finish this report before work tomorrow.
  • The game is in overtime, and you really want to see who wins.

And then, there are those other occasions when you get to bed on time but toss and turn for hours, worrying about money or how much you have to get done the next day.

Regardless of the reason, a reduced amount of sleep is cause for concern. 

What’s keeping your employees up at night?

One of the top things keeping people up at night is work-related stress.1 The Mental Health Commission outlines three workplace factors that are impacting employee stress and wellbeing: work-life balance, involvement and influence, and workload management.2

Addressing some of these concerns could help contribute to a better night’s rest for your employees which in turn, can lead to better decision making, increased concentration, and increased productivity.2

As an employer, here’s what you can do:

Work-life balance helps employees feel like they have time for other things, such as spending time with friends and family, and enjoying their hobbies and interests. Try encouraging employees to set boundaries, disconnect when they are at home, and take breaks.

Involvement and influence relate to the work environment. In a healthy environment, employees feel like they can approach their supervisors with questions or concerns, and they feel like they have some control over the way their work is organized.

Workload management can weigh heavily on employees as well. To alleviate some of this pressure, help employees delegate and distribute work more evenly and encourage them to only attend meetings where their presence is required.

Other notable things keeping people up at night include screen time, non-work-related stress, mental health conditions and financial concerns.1

Six ways to help your people get a good night’s rest

  1. Don’t take it lying down. Your employees’ health is key to the health of your business. In 2022, absenteeism and presenteeism as reported in The Wellness Report resulted in the loss of 48 days per employee at an estimated cost of $644,912,768.3 The $645-million question, of course, is what can you do about it? In addition to addressing potential concerns around work-life balance, involvement and influence, and workload management, you can:
  2. Provide a place for employees to rest. A short nap could help restore energy levels and alertness, and 30% of employees surveyed in The Wellness Report 2022, expressed interest in this.4,3 At Manulife head office in Toronto, for example, there is a “nap room,” where employees can retreat for some uninterrupted shuteye. While napping can be helpful, it should be done strategically to avoid interrupting nighttime sleep.
  3. Provide natural light. Exposure to natural light during the day helps to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle.5 If your space has few windows, consider lighting workspaces with full-spectrum bulbs that mimic natural light.
  4. Encourage employees to be active. Moderate to vigorous exercise has been shown to decrease the amount of time needed to fall asleep, providing better sleep quality.6 Anything that gets your employees up and moving about is helpful. Consider encouraging walking meetings for example, instead of gathering around a boardroom table. 
  5. Discourage late night emails/texts. From the onset of the pandemic in 2020, organizations have learned how to work remotely. While this anywhere, anytime connectivity is convenient, it can also be harmful if your employees feel obligated to be on-call 24/7. Unless it’s an emergency, work-related messages are best communicated during working hours. Work towards a culture where employees feel comfortable signing off and recharging at night.
  6. Promote awareness. Perhaps the most important action to take is to let employees know that their overall well-being is important to you. Make sure they are aware of the supports you offer and how to access them. Workplace culture is a powerful influence. The 2022 Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey found that job satisfaction at organizations with a culture of wellness that was both expressed and put into practice was 91%. In organizations without a clear wellness culture job satisfaction fell to 56%.7

Here’s how a lack of sleep can affect you

Short-term impacts of sleep disruption

Not getting enough sleep at night can take a toll on your health quickly and could lead to:

  • Reduced alertness
  • Excessive sleepiness in the daytime
  • Impaired memory
  • Relationship stress
  • Reduced quality of life8

You might also be at a greater likelihood of getting into a car crash – which is a major concern if your workers commute. The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators says drowsy driving is a factor in 21 percent of car crashes in Canada. 9

Getting behind the wheel when you’re groggy can severely impact your driving ability because your reaction time is slower, you might make more impulsive decisions, you can lose focus, and you vision can be impacted.9

Long-term impacts of sleep deprivation

Sleep is essential to both physical and mental health and not getting enough shut-eye can have long term impacts on your health. Sleep deficiency has been linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, stroke and depression8.

How much sleep do you need?

Though the ideal amount can vary person to person, for most individuals the recommended amount of sleep you need each night can depend on your age.

  • Adults, 65+ years: 7 to 8 hours
  • Adults, 26 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours
  • Young adults, 18 to 25 years: 7 to 9 hours8

Research from National Library of Medicine shows getting the recommended hours of sleep on a regular basis is crucial for optimal health and daily performance – especially when it comes to concentrating and making decisions at work.10

More than a quarter of employees, however, reported getting less than seven hours a night in The Wellness Report 2022.3

27 per cent get less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep per day

<4 hours 1%
5 hours 4%
6 hours 22%
7 hours 39%
>8 hours 34%

Source: The Wellness Report, 2022

Good versus poor sleep quality

It’s not just the amount of sleep that matters. Quality is also important. Sleep quality refers to:

  • How long it takes to fall asleep.
  • Whether you sleep through the night or wake up more than once.
  • How long it takes to get back to sleep if you do wake up — ideally, 20 minutes or less.
  • Whether you feel rested, re-energized, and restored when you wake in the morning.11

Poor sleep quality may lead to difficulty with organization at work and reduced concentration. With regard to sleep quality, our data again shows your employees may be at risk.

According to The Wellness Report 2022, only 13 per cent of employees reported getting ‘very good’ quality sleep each night while 45 per cent said they got ‘good’ quality sleep.3 Thirty-one per cent of employees said their sleep quality was ‘fair’ and nine per cent of employees surveyed for the report said their sleep quality was ‘poor’.3

Sleep quality

Very poor 2%
Poor       9%
Fair 31%
Good 45%
Very good 13%

Source: The Wellness Report, 2022

The power of rest:
A special report on employee sleep

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