Does worrying about work keep you up at night? New research
suggests you're not alone.
Is there a sleep crisis in the UK? Health and performance group
Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) think so. They blame technology
and increased expectations for digitally connected workers. Harvard
professor Stuart Quan wrote the report. He found that
'connected' workers are twice as likely to get fewer than
six hours' sleep a night compared to those who are
'offline'. Stressed, anxious or depressed workers are
also more vulnerable to insomnia.
Email, Blackberries and remote working are embedded in office
culture. It is now difficult to imagine a world without instant
access to colleagues and clients. There have been benefits for
individuals. Technology makes it easier than ever to work flexibly.
Wait for a parcel or a plumber is less frustrating if you can keep
It is easy to see how the creep of digital technologies makes it
difficult for workers to draw the line between work and home time.
Does digital connectivity still enhance your job when you log back
on at home after being at work all day? Or when you can't shake
the habit of checking your emails while on holiday? How about that
time you spent the weekend finishing a report?
Why should employers care how much sleep their employees are
Perhaps you agree that it is a good idea to have a happier
and more motivated workforce. If you need concrete reasons, the
study found that sleep-deprived workers have less energy. They
report greater levels of fatigue and their concentration and
productivity also suffer.
Professor Quan suggests that sacrificing rest to appear more
productive is a false economy. A "lack of sleep negatively
affects productivity through increased levels of absenteeism and
presenteeism. It increases the likelihood of mistakes and
accidents. And in some industries this can have serious
Those are compelling reasons for directors to heed the warnings
of their HR teams. They might be enough to put employee wellbeing
top of the workplace agenda. This is especially true where mistakes
are costly, damaging to reputations or even deadly.
GCC suggest that employers should provide education and support
around the sleep issue. One professional service firm now organises
popular courses on sleep for its employees.
Management should also consider the impact of the 24-hour
culture of continuous business communications. Is it acceptable to
switch off email after hours, weekends and on holiday? When do
employees need to be contactable? How is this communicated and
And, if you want to get ahead, get to sleep!
LEAVE TO TAKE LEAVE
Will uncertainty surrounding Brexit make people reluctant to
The answer, if history is anything to go by, is yes.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has issued new data. It
reveals that the amount of holiday leave has reached its highest
level since 2007. Is this about to reverse? ONS's figures also
suggest that workers are exceeding their contracted hours and
choosing not to take their holiday.
Workers may be starting to think twice before jetting off to
sunny climes. Reasons cited include job insecurity, fear of
redundancy or simple financial necessity. Economic uncertainty
surrounding the UK's vote to leave the EU hasn't
What should employers do to make sure workers take their annual
The relevant legal obligations are set out in the Working Time
Regulations 1998 (WTR). The WTR grant employees a right to 28
days' annual leave, inclusive of Bank Holidays. There is no
specific obligation on employers to ensure an employee takes all 28
days. It is possible for them to insist that staff take their
Head of PwC Legal Ed Stacey, writing in HR Magazine, suggests
that it is appropriate for employers to exercise this right in
certain circumstances. For example, if the employee is exhibiting
signs of stress and exhaustion.
Businesses have a legal duty to consider ways of reducing
employees' stress levels. Proactively encouraging time off
could help. It ensures that employees have time off and, when they
do go on leave, that it is actually relaxing.
What can employers do to guard against the risk of potential
stress-related tribunal claims? Prudent employers should have
procedures that enable them to track and manage working hours.
It would also be helpful to have a paper trail. This will help
prove that you encourage staff to take their full annual leave
entitlement and remind employees that they need to book
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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