Poor sleep can undermine important aspects of leadership behaviour and potentially hurt financial performance.
Business tasks rely on higher-order cognitive processes, such as
• executing plans
These processes are associated with the brain’s prefrontal cortex, but research has shown that this area appears to be particularly sensitive to sleep deprivation.
According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, four types of behaviour are most commonly associated with high-quality teams-
• operating with a strong orientation to results.
• solving problems effectively.
• seeking out different perspectives.
• supporting others.
Research has confirmed that sleep deprivation impairs the ability to focus attention selectively. A good night’s sleep leads to new insights: participants who enjoyed one were twice as likely to discover a hidden shortcut in a task as those who didn’t. Furthermore, sleep has been shown to improve decision making and the ability to weigh the relative significance of different inputs accurately, avoid tunnel vision and reduce cognitive bias.
Business relationships naturally require interaction with people and the ability to accurately ‘read’ their emotions. Poor sleep causes you to misinterpret these cues, overreact to emotional events, and express your feelings more negatively and tone of voice. People who have not had enough sleep are less likely to trust someone else fully. This is probably a wise thing, given that poor sleep has also been shown to contribute to an increase in dishonest behaviour, such as cheating.
It really does matter if you are sleepy at work; data from recent a National Sleep Foundation (NSF) survey showed that workers reported the following were affected by sleepiness
• Concentration 68%
• Handling stress 65%
• Listening 57%
• Solving problems 57%
• Decision making 56%
• Relating to others 38%
They also felt that sleepiness contributed to them
• Making errors 19%
• Being late to work 14%
• Falling asleep at work 7%
• Staying home from work 4%
• Getting injured 2%
Your employees have a responsibility to turn up fit for work. That includes having had sufficient sleep to correctly and efficiently perform their role; to do otherwise means that they become a health and safety liability. In the same way, they would not turn up to work drunk, they should not turn up to work sleepy, they should certainly not expect their boss to provide a ‘nap-pod’, or for that matter any sympathy, for them to recover from their marathon binge-watching of the latest’ must-see’ box set or whatever else you were doing.
If you are an 8hr a night person getting the following hours of sleep per night is equivalent to consuming several 500ml beers
• 6 h sleep ≈ 2 beers
• 4 h sleep ≈ 4 beers
• 2 h sleep ≈ 5 beers
• 0 h sleep ≈ 7 beers
Turning up to work under the influence of alcohol would be a disciplinary offence in most workplaces, yet people turn up to work sleepy, even though the impairment of their performance is the same.
Sleep is fundamental to your employee’s health, safety and productivity and ultimately, bottom line.
Dr Neil Stanley