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The frightening ways sleep impacts the working world

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Time pressure, constant availability, demanding workloads – the modern working world is a severe test of employees’ health.  The quantity and quality of sleep is a crucial factor in maintaining the well-being of staff at work. 

We don’t sleep enough: on average six and a half hours a night. Sleep researcher Professor Vicki Culpin from the Business School Ashridge Executive Education, discovered this in a major survey based on over 1,000 employees. According to the American Sleep Association, healthy adults aged 20 to 60 years of age need an average of between seven and nine hours of sleep a night to stay healthy. The psychologist Vicki Culpin found there were several other effects of a lack of sleep besides frequent headaches or a susceptibility to colds – and these led to the following problems at work: difficulty interacting with colleagues and concentrating in meetings or limited social skills. 

Likelihood of making riskier decisions
“For some people, their ability to make decisions slows down,” explains Culpin. Because they don’t assimilate every piece of information rationally, they tend to make riskier decisions. This could be seen both in human resource professionals who usually enjoy taking risks and among those that tend to be risk-averse. This situation is aggravated by the fact that people suffering from a lack of sleep tend to have more confidence in such a risky decision, regardless of whether it is right or wrong. On the whole, staff lower down the hierarchy reported worse impairments than those in higher management positions. “Lack of sleep is not only an issue for employees who are dealing with the greatest level of pressure and stress. It is a company-wide problem – across all levels from junior colleagues right up to the CEO.” 

Managers boast of ability to get by on little sleep
“It may be that more junior people are more prepared to talk openly about the effects of poor sleep because they do not regard it as career suicide,” presumes Vicky Culpin. She also concluded that more senior people are perhaps a little savvier in disguising the effects or they are just ashamed to talk about it. To this day, many managers boast of their ability to get by on little sleep – such as Marissa Mayer from Yahoo, Tesla CEO Elon Musk or Donald Trump, US presidential nominee. At the same time, top executives such as Arianna Huffington claim a good night’s sleep is their recipe for success. Against this background, human resource professionals are increasingly interested in sleep as an item on their corporate health agenda. In her keynote speech on Thursday, 20 October 2016, 12 noon to 1.30 p.m. (Forum 1, Hall 2.1, Koelnmesse) Professor Culpin reports on other findings from sleep research and how sleep affects the working world (in English with live translation into German). 

Promoting physical and psychological health
Tips on how to create a healthy corporate culture are also provided by the exhibition’s supporting programme. For example, ten mistakes to be avoided when introducing health initiatives are outlined by Dr Martin Zelger from Global Corporate Challenge. In the “Corporate Health” theme park, the focus is on products and services for corporate health management. Visitors can gather information on various approaches and solutions geared at supporting the psychological and physical health of staff – such as health apps and game-based tools which adopt a playful approach to stress management.  In the exhibition’s Start-up Village, the young company Humanoo, for example, presents its services for digital corporate health management.

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