In many ways, a worker coming into work without enough sleep is about as bad as a worker coming into work while drunk. The results are very much the same – poor mood, poor concentration, poor judgement and poor performance.
If your workers are working in positions in which they must handle dangerous equipment, or else are responsible for the safety of co-workers and customers, then your company is risking a serious accident in letting them work in such a state.
If that happens, you can be held legally liable for negligence by allowing a tired employee to work. Thus, as an employer, you have something of a responsibility to help workers get enough sleep each night.
Now understandably this can often be easier said than done. In certain respects, your authority as an employer over your employees ends the moment their shift is up and they are off the buildings. Provided they are not up to anything illegal or in breach of their worker’s contract, what they do in their free time is largely up to them.
While you can recommend a worker try to get more sleep, you cannot force them to, nor can you fire them simply for being tired on the job. However, there are ways to help workers get enough sleep. It just requires a bit of thought for your employees’ needs and health.
Check Night Shift Patterns
If your employees need to work nights on occasion, make sure the division of night shifts is evenly distributed. Humans by nature are not nocturnal animals, and if their sleep patterns are disrupted this can create difficulties in getting to sleep properly.
As such, if ever you spot a worker receiving more night shifts than is fair, a good way to help them get enough sleep is to reassign some of their night shifts.
Doing so will allow the worker to have a natural night’s sleep, which provides more benefit that trying to sleep during the day. Once their sleeping patterns are back in order, you can arrange for night shifts again. Just make sure they are fairly assigned, and that the workers are not in a position to fall into this trouble again.
Another way to help workers get enough sleep is to adjust the hours they are working. By this, we mean assigning them hours that allow them more time to get some sleep when at home. This is broadly similar in practice to the night shift method.
Ideally your employees should work around eight hours, traditionally from 9am to 5pm. If the job requires unorthodox hours, such as a 7am start or 7pm finish, make sure that the hours are still balanced. As a frame of reference, the typical weekly hours in 2012 were around 35 hours a week. With this in mind, your worker should be able to get a minimum of eight hours sleep.
Make sure you factor in things such as commute times, and the amount of time the worker can eat and get ready for work. An hour or two for leisure is also recommended. All work and no play make Jack a dull (and unproductive) boy, after all.
Give Some Vacation Time
If things get desperate, grant the worker some vacation leave. This way they get some paid time off that they can use to focus on getting sleep. This should especially be an option if the worker in question rarely takes any of their vacation days to begin with. Depending on the contract the employee signed upon being hired, you may even have the liberty of mandating vacation if you think you need to.
Send the Worker to See a Nurse or Doctor
Should the cause of the worker’s lack of sleep be more medical in nature, such as a bout of insomnia, then it may be necessary to send the worker to a medical professional to help them get enough sleep. In this case, the doctor or nurse can prescribe any necessary drugs that may be needed to assist in getting a good night’s rest.
Alternatively, the lack of sleep may, in fact, be a symptom of a much larger problem. In this case, sending the worker to a doctor can be a good way of diagnosing it and working out a treatment. Thus not only have you found a way to help your worker get enough sleep, but potentially prevented a more severe illness from setting in.
For employers concerned about the efficacy of their health and safety programs I recommend getting in touch with CESToday.