Aussie Firms Should Get Sleep Smart

Bosses need to get 'sleep smart' if they want their employees to be alert, productive and safe on the job, Australia's sleep watchdog warns.

The Sleep Health Foundation is concerned about the growing impact of poor sleep on the workplace, with increasingly tired workers feeling moody, indecisive, unfocused and less alert when performing safety critical tasks.

Figures show sleep problems cost Australian businesses over $3 billion in lost productivity a year from absenteeism and early retirement.

"That's the cost of sickies due to poor sleep, Professor Hillman states, yet this extraordinary cost does not even factor in the cost of employee accidents due to fatigue, or the cost of presenteeism, that is being at work but in a suboptimal state."

Prof Hillman, Chair of the Sleep Health Foundation aims to raise awareness of the costs and risks associated with poor sleep when he presents at the Sleep Health Conference in Perth on Thursday 9th, July.

The foundation says many industries are becoming more 'fatigue conscious', driven largely by health, safety and productivity concerns. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure employees understand that arriving at work rested is a responsibility.

"Workers have an obligation to be fit for duty but they often don't consider the important role their night's sleep plays in that fitness to do their job and do it safely," the sleep physician says.

"Recent research shows us that up to a quarter of adult Australians have regular sleeping problems and also routinely suffer from fatigue and exhaustion during the week," says Professor David Hillman, Chair of the Sleep Health Foundation, the leading national advocate for sleep health.

"That's a lot of people showing up to work feeling moody, irritable, unable to maintain concentration and suffering short-term memory problems that poor sleep brings."

Construction firm Georgiou is one such company to add sleep health to the agenda. Georgiou's Organisational Development Senior Officer Mary Matthews said sleep is often seen as a luxury in our hyper-connected, fast paced world. It is important for all our leaders to ensure they get the quality and quantity of sleep they need to perform at their optimum. A workshop on sleep health was successfully trialled as part of the female mentoring program. The workshop provided the participants with a better understanding of the science behind sleep and how, as a leader, we can adopt varies strategies to improve our quality of sleep.

Professional services firm Ernst and Young has also talked sleep with its staff. "As part of our wellbeing program we have recently had a focus on sleep health and this has received positive feedback from our staff and can only lead to increased wellbeing and productivity,"
says Ernst and Young's Partner, Advisory, Michael Rundus.

The Perth conference is organised by People Diagnostix, a West Australian wellbeing service provider will be held on Thursday, July 9 at UWA Business School in Perth.

Poor Sleep - Physical Cost

  • Lapses in attention & inability to stay focused
  • Reduced motivation
  • Compromised problem solving
  • Confusion, irritability and memory lapses
  • Impaired communication and faulty information processing & judgment
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Indifference and loss of empathy

Poor Sleep - Financial Cost

  • Sleep disorders and conditions cost Australia about $4.3 billion a year
  • This includes $3.1 billion in lost productivity due to premature workforce separation and mortality, and absenteeism
  • The deadweight loss of raising revenue to fund lost productivity, public health expenditure, social security payments and non-medical costs associated with car accidents that were due to sleep disorders cost $472 million
  • Informal care and other costs of motor vehicle and workplace accidents amounts to about $129 million and $517 million respectively

For further information, contact Lucy Williams on 0403 753 028.