McKinsey on the Organizational Cost of Insufficient Sleep

A good night’s rest can be the difference between a day of productive decisions and a day with you accidentally putting your lunch in the freezer. Sleep recharges the brain and helps to prevent silly mistakes–at home and at work. In an article for McKinsey & Company, Nick van Dam and Els van der Helm elaborate on the true cost to businesses of losing sleep.

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Leadership behaviors tend to be associated with the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Unfortunately, this is the one area of the brain that does not do well on little sleep. Yes, visual and other motor skills do not work as well in a sleep-deprived person, but the higher-order mental skills are even worse off. A previous McKinsey study revealed four leadership behaviors that are associated with high-quality executives: focuses on results, seeks different perspectives, supports others, and solves problems effectively. All four of these behaviors can be linked to sleep.

Scientists have uncovered that after 17 to 19 hours of being awake, people perform tasks the same as a person with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 would. After 20 hours of being awake that number doubles to a blood-alcohol level of 0.1, or the legal definition of “drunkenness” in the United States.

Sleep helps people successfully complete tasks and uncover hidden potential. A good night’s sleep can double the chance for finding a shortcut whilst completing a task. Additionally, creative thinking takes place while dreaming, which means that a well-rested employee is likely to uncover more creative solutions to problems.

What does all of this mean for organizations? They can begin by having training programs that educate their employees on the importance of sleep. Additionally, they can implement new company policies that better ensure employees are well-rested. For example, if an employee needs to fly somewhere for a meeting, the company could book an earlier flight, as opposed to an overnight one, so the employee can get some quality sleep before their big meeting. They could also encourage more teamwork and lessen the workload someone may be carrying alone. Companies can lessen the number of emails sent and establish time limits for work too. This would decrease the amount of late nights spent in the office. Some other cutting-edge techniques include: mandatory work-free vacations, “predictable time off,” napping rooms, and smart technology.

Organizations that are to excel in the future need to begin to focus on their employees’ sleep health. A Harvard Medical School study revealed that an alarming 96 percent of senior leaders are feeling burnout. Avoid this and fix the leaders; allow them to count some sheep! You can read the full article here:

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