Go to Bed! A Manager’s Guide to Sleep Deprivation

Go to Bed! A Manager’s Guide to Sleep Deprivation

Sleep Deprivation and work

We have all seen it; the employee who slumps into their swivel chair, bags under their eyes as they gulp down a luke warm latte. Sleep deprivation is a huge problem in the UK with 1 in 5 people at any given time feeling fatigued and run down. A recent study conducted by the Rand Foundation with the University of Cambridge suggests that those who get less than 6 hours of sleep a night are far less productive than those who get 7 or 8 hours of sleep.

This situation of course puts the manager into a difficult position; how do you deal with a tired employee? It is difficult to handle given that sleep isn’t usually the problem but rather what is causing the lack of sleep and is it the managers place to know? Understandably the new father will be tired getting up to feed baby, the employee who is going through a divorce may be having sleepless nights, none the employees fault but still leaves productivity lacking. We have been looking at the top ways companies and managers deal with tired employees and have come up with a handy guide;

Spot the signs

Depending on the management style of an organisation it can be easy to miss that an employee’s fall in productivity is owing to them not getting enough sleep. Being able to spot that an employee is lacking in sleep will change your view of the negative effects of it, failing to do this may just leave you disappointed at the employee which will only add to their problems. Common signs include:

  • Mistakes the employee wouldn’t usually make such as spelling.
  • Forgetting things they usually remember such as meetings, appointments or details such as email addresses and phone numbers.
  • Increased caffeine intake, they constantly have a coffee on their desk or have more coffee breaks than they usually would.
  • The employee becomes noticeably clumsy.
  • Emotional or angry outbursts.
  • Increased sickness and/or sickness absence.
  • The employee keeps falling asleep! If you keep seeing the employee dozing off at their desk.

Of course we all have days when we would rather be in bed and the trick is to spot those who have a problem with sleep generally rather than those who just have the odd day of fatigue. Spotting the signs is the first step to understanding why an employee is tired which is what the problem is rather than the sleep deprivation itself.

Wellness and Health Oriented

A healthy employee is a productive one and it is within the employers interests to foster a culture of mindfulness at work. Educating employees on healthy practices, especially in relation to sleep, helps not only to prevent sickness absence but also builds a happier and more productive workforce. Having a health culture doesn’t mean a short seminar or sticking up some posters around the office, it means having a clear and structured way of encouraging healthy practices in the workplace. You can be as creative as you like in finding ways to help your staff be healthy from workplace sports teams to providing fresh fruit. Here are just some ways we have heard about;

Wellness charters – a visible set of wellness principles that employees and employers agree to, this could include a culture of openness in which employees agree to come to their managers when they feel their health is affecting their work or their work is affecting their health. Charters should always include how the employer will resolve, or attempt to address issues.

Active workplaces – as mentioned above a sports team is a great way of getting employees active whilst at the same time building on team work. Activity days are also a great way of getting employees out and pulling them out of their routines and comfort zones. Having a regular activity day on work time doing something that is a bit out of everyone’s box will help employees to discover the fun in being active.

Whatever it is you come with the most important thing to put across to your employees is that you genuinely care about their health and have made a commitment to make your workforce healthy. A healthy culture in the workplace is not something that can be achieved quickly, however the benefits of a workforce mindful of it’s health will ultimately benefit the bottom line.

Tighten up overtime

Whilst for many employers overtime is essential it is also a way for already tired employees to become exhausted. This problem is pertinent amount tired employees with money troubles, to fix the very problem keeping them awake at night take on extra hours which only makes them more tired. It is a good idea to take a look at your over-time policies to be on approval only and cap hours.

Ask

If you see a pattern of sleep deprivation then the quickest way to resolve the situation is to ask. It is important that asking is done in a caring and concerned way rather than disappointed and angry.   Again the most likely scenario is that the employee’s lack of sleep is owing to something in their personal life or their lifestyle, being angry at either won’t help to solve the problem. Asking the employee about sleep will help you to understand their attitude towards it and at the very least open a dialogue for them to talk about it and realise it is a problem.

Occupational Health

In order to help the employee you might suggest referring them to your Occupational Health provider who will provide you as the employer guidance on managing the issue, but you need to get the employee’s consent before you refer.

Employee Assistance

If you have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in place then you could think about mentioning it to the employee. Most EAP providers operate a confidential helpline and advice service to employees who might be having debt, emotional or any other worries.

Annual leave and time off

Make sure your employees take their contracted annual leave during the leave year. Also monitor their working hours and patterns to ensure they are taking enough time off to recharge. It could be as simple as needing a week away to take charge again and recharge those tired old batteries.

Stress busting

Stress busting

I came across this fantastic info graphic (don’t you just love them) about managing stress in the workplace drafted by Unum UK.

Every organisation should have a policy on dealing with stress (Crosse HR can help with this). Dealing with stress is a fact of life and should be an integral part of every organisation’s Wellness and wellbeing programme. Show you care. Start with this.

This infographic was crafted by Unum UK. Unum UK helps manage stress at work as part of employee benefits.
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Tortured geniuses. Every small business has one.

Tortured geniuses. Every small business has one.

I recently attended the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A in London. Even if you have no interest, or in my case the wallet, to purchase any couture or high end designer clothes, you could not fail to be in awe of the man’s extreme talent and unbelievable imagination. It did strike me though more than once when I was gazing at a structure for the head, aka a hat or an ethereal dress, how did this genius die alone hanging in a wardrobe in his home clearly having had enough? He had the world at his feet literally, surrounded by the world’s beauties, making pots of money for his employers, yet no one appeared to have any idea that the guy was in a state and about to take his own life. How can this happen? How can you spot the signs of stress, depression of mental health issues at work?

Spotting the signs of stress, depression or mental health issues at work

In my experience this is all too common unfortunately. Most of us either aren’t aware of the signs of stress, depression or mental health issues, or tip toe around them when we encounter them at work. It’s a hard thing to confront, but I firmly believe that employers can train their people to spot the signs and provide help. Shouting, explosions of tempers and crying are all sure fire signs all is not well, as is increased sickness absence, coming in hung-over, dilated eyes, unkempt appearance, dips in performance where previously there has not been any, rapid weight gain or loss, as well as firm denials when asked.

Clear policies are the route to a clear conscience

Now its not easy to tackle, or identify anything is wrong, but having an employee assistance scheme in place is a step forward Employee Assistance is otherwise known as EAP, which is basically a service employers can buy (usually from their Occupational Health provider like BUPA or HCA) where employees can ring a confidential helpline to discuss their problems and seek advice usually on divorce, debt, redundancy, depression, problems at work. Its totally confidential but can be very useful for some people. EAP doesn’t cost that much, and CrosseHR can help.

Even without EAP you can still make positive steps to supporting employees who are showing signs of stress, depression or mental health issues. Introduce a clear policy on how the organisation tackles stress (usually under Health & Safety policy or a separate policy), and have a nominated person or organisation that employees are made aware of as someone they go to initially if there is a problem – that might be someone internally such as Occupational Health, or external counselling services, the GP, or the Samaritans for example.

Whether you have an employee assistance scheme or simply an internal policy, make sure it’s well promoted, you foster a general atmosphere of openness, and promote good management practices – it’s amazing what regular 121’s between managers and their reports can reveal and not just about work. It all goes without saying that a ‘human HR person’ always helps and not one obsessed with the rule book! As a final note, the Mental Health Foundation itself calls for us to learn ‘mindfulness’ which is sound advice to any business. You can read more on that here.

Believe you me, and I have proof, if you spot a problem an employee is having, support them, offer them help and they sort it out, you will have a loyal, dedicated employee for a very very long time, not to mention a clear conscience !

 

Image credit: Nata Sha / Shutterstock.com

Goodbye Fit Note Hello Fit Plan

Goodbye Fit Note Hello Fit Plan

Did you know that Fit Notes are to become a think of the past very soon (August 15 in London)? They are to be replaced by the latest clear sky thinking, the Fit Plan. You might well be wondering as I did when I first heard of it at an excellent sickness seminar run by Gordon Dadds.

How will the Fit Plan work?

Ok, the Fit Plan works like this. After the 7 day continuous sickness, the employee goes off to the GP to get what would have been their Fit Note. Instead the GP assesses whether or not they need to be referred to the Government’s own Occupational Health advisers, and devise a Fit Plan. This is then taken off to their employers who will decide whether or not to take the advice offered on the Fit Plan.

A Fit Plan does not replace your own Occupational Health referral process, rather it runs alongside it. My advice is to continue holding your Return to Work interviews, adhering to your sickness absence policy, referring to Occupational Health where necessary and treat the Fit Plan in much the same way as you would a Fit Note.

Any questions or issues you might have in managing sickness absence in the workplace with or without a Fit Note or Fit Plan, then contact us here at CrosseHR and we will be happy to help. Its another case of wait and see I believe. Until you actually see it work in practice, and have a few test cases at Tribunal, its hard to see how it will work in practice. More of this later …