Key Action For Employers

Information taken from the BITC toolkit – Sleep & Recovery

Sleep Matters should be included in your organisations approach to health and wellbeing. Starting the conversation about sleep with employees can be challenging; sleep is very personal and can be difficult to discuss. As a first step, encourage employees to use the NHS Choices self-assessment tool to review the quality of their sleep.

Prevention

  • Embed sleep and recovery into your organisation’s health and wellbeing strategy
  • Consult employees about the support they need and put it into practice with their collaboration
  • Conduct a sleep audit in the workplace, or encourage employees to self-assess
  • Support line managers, particularly through training, helping them to recognise symptoms of sleep deprivation
  • Use the HSE stress management standards to reduce work-related causes of stress
  • Make sure staff have access to natural light and consider the use of daylight simulator lamps, which emit a bright flicker-free light close to natural sunlight, particularly during the winter
  • Temperature, ventilation and humidity all contribute to comfort at work. They help employees work efficiently during the day and rest/sleep at night, so ensure air conditioning is well maintained and provide additional ventilation such as fans when necessary
  • Create quiet spaces for rest and relaxation, where employees can switch off completely from work for a period
  • Work with employees to create shift patterns which allow for recovery, making adjustments for those who work out of the office, particularly those who spend time on the road and will sometimes be long distances from home when their regular working day ends
  • Incorporate flexitime for employees who work or travel across international time zones
  • Don’t count travel time as down time, even if employees have not been connected to the office
  • Make allowance for additional time employees have spent away from their families
  • Let staff unplug; encourage employees to switch off by reducing/halting out-of-work emails and protecting disconnected time during non-work hours
  • Bear in mind that some employees will find it stressful to be ‘out of the loop’ and work with them to decide what’s best for them

Early Intervention: recognising and addressing sleep deprivation

  • Empower line managers to intervene when necessary and to approach the subject in a caring and concerned way
  • Open a dialogue with employees to talk and recognise if sleep deprivation is a problem
  • Remember that many will not consider that sleep and recovery is an issue that can and should be addressed at work
  • Signpost to information that will help employees make lifestyle changes that will address some of the problems they experience with sleep and recovery Self-care is an important first step, so promote good sleep routines
  • Encourage use of self-care tools like sleep diaries or apps to help get a better understanding of triggers and issues
  • Lighten their load: Consider the possibility that some employees are working long hours because they are not coping well with their workload
  • Explore ways to ease their burden: sometimes job redesign may be necessary
  • Where appropriate, refer to Occupational Health or an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP); Most EAPs have a confidential helpline or advice service for employees
  • When symptoms persist, encourage employees to seek professional help A pharmacist may be appropriate in the first instance and NHS Choices provides a lot of advice

Recovery; helping employees to recuperate

  • Help employees to understand the impact of excessive screen time on their mental wellbeing, work/life balance and sleep
  • Encourage them to have screen breaks, including a break from social media and news channels throughout the day
  • Hydration aids recovery, so make drinking water available throughout the workplace
  • Encourage exposure to natural light, as sunshine helps the body recover natural rhythms disrupted by poor sleep or lack of sleep
  • Walking meetings, outside lunches and breaks from work that involve stepping out of the workplace can all be promoted
  • Ensure staff have a quiet space away from their desks to eat lunch and consider providing spaces for staff to relax during the working day or night
  • Break-out spaces, sofa areas and relaxation pods are used by some employers to promote rest and recovery
  • Ensure staff take their full holiday entitlement. Time off work is not ‘nice to have’ but an essential element of work/life balance