Case analysis: The Sleepiness Epidemic
Case Incident 2
The Sleepiness Epidemic
Ronit Rogosziniski, a financial planner, loses sleep because of her 5 a.m. wake-up call, so she sneaks to her car for a quick lunchtime snooze each day. She is not alone, as evidenced by the comments on Wall Street Oasis, a website frequented by investment bankers who blog about their travails. Should the legions of secret nappers be blessed or cursed by their organizations for this behavior? Research suggests they should be encouraged.
Sleep is a problem, or rather, lack of quality zzz’s is a costly organizational problem we can no longer overlook. Sleepiness, a technical term in this case that denotes a true physiological pressure for sleep, lowers performance, and increases accidents, injuries, and unethical behavior. One survey found that 29 percent of respondents slept on the job, 12 percent were late to work, 4 percent left work early, and 2 percent did not go to work due to sleepiness. While sleepiness affects 33 percent of the U.S. population, the clinical extreme, excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), is fully debilitating to an additional 11 percent.
In a vicious cycle where the effects of sleepiness affect the organization, which leads to longer work hours and thus more sleepiness, the reason for the sleepiness epidemic seems to be the modern workplace. Full-time employees have been getting less sleep over the past 30 years as a direct result of longer work days, putting them more at risk for sleep disorders. Sleepiness directly decreases attention span, memory, information processing, affect, and emotion regulation capabilities. Research on sleep deprivation has found that tired workers experience higher levels of back pain, heart disease, depression, work withdrawal, and job dissatisfaction. All these outcomes have significant implications for organizational effectiveness and costs. Sleepiness may account for $14 billion of medical expenses, up to $69 billion for auto accidents, and up to $24 billion in workplace accidents in the United States annually.
Although being around bright light and loud sounds, standing, eating, and practicing good posture can reduce sleepiness temporarily, there is only one lasting cure: more hours of good-quality sleep. Some companies are encouraging napping at work as a solution to the problem, and one survey of 600 companies revealed that 6 percent had dedicated nap rooms. In addition, in a poll of 1,508 workers conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 34 percent said they were allowed to nap at work. These policies may be a good start, but they are only Band-Aid approaches since more and better sleep is what’s needed. Researchers suggest that organizations should consider flexible working hours and greater autonomy to allow employees to maximize their productive waking hours. Given the high costs of sleepiness, it’s time for them to take the problem much more seriously.
Sources: Based on C. Delo, “Why Companies are Cozying Up to Napping at Work,” CNN (August 18, 2011), (www.management.fortune.cnn.com); D. T. Wagner, C. M. Barnes, V. K. G. Lim, and D. L. Ferris, “Lost Sleep and Cyberloafing: Evidence from the Laboratory and a Daylight Saving Time Quasi-Experiment,” Journal of Applied Psychology 97 (2012), pp. 1068–-1076; and D. Wescott, “Do Not Disturb,” Bloomberg BusinessWeek (April 23–rd-29th, 2012), p. 90.
7-16. Should organizations be concerned about the sleepiness of their employees? What factors influencing sleep might be more or less under the control of an organization?
7-17. How might sleep deprivation influence aspects of expectancy theory? How might the incorporation of “nap rooms” for sleep-deprived employees demonstrate aspects of equity theory?
7-18. If you were a manager who noticed your employees were sleep-deprived, what steps might you take to help them? What theories of motivation could you use to help them?