Sleep deprivation is a ‘hidden threat’ that organisations need to pay attention to if they want to ensure the wellbeing of their staff while also gaining a competitive edge.

The research findings are outlined in a new report The Wake-up Call: The importance of sleep in organizational life’. Based on a survey of over 1,000 professionals at all levels and across sectors, the research explores the impact of sleep on managers’ ability to perform effectively at work as well as its effect on their physical health, and social and emotional life. 

The findings show that managers across the board are getting less sleep than the recommended minimum, with the average sleep time coming out at 6 hours 28 minutes. 

Respondents reported that poor sleep was having a real impact on their ability to manage the complex tasks and display the behaviours expected in modern business life. More than two thirds (69 per cent) said they had trouble staying focused in meetings when tired, with the same number saying it took longer to complete tasks after a poor night’s sleep. Nearly two thirds (65 per cent) said they found it harder to work with challenging colleagues when sleep deprived.

The research found that although over-50s get less sleep than younger colleagues, they report that it affects their performance less. It is not clear, however, if this is really the case, or if more senior staff are under-reporting the impact of sleep loss on their own performance because they are more ‘politically savvy’ and reluctant to admit being under-par.

Sleep has traditionally been considered a personal issue rather than an organisational one. But with lack of quality sleep having such a negative impact on performance, it is fast becoming an issue the corporate world cannot ignore.

The report’s authors suggest that leaders need to challenge the 24/7 ‘always on’, globally-networked and technologically connected culture.  Sleep, they argue, should be integrated into the organisational resilience and wellbeing agenda, with line managers, as well as HR, having a critical role to play in reviewing working policies and practices.