Hoosiers Need More Zzzzzzzzs (Employers Can Help)

Sleepy worker

Ten years ago, sleep was not one of my top priorities.

I slept whenever I wanted (outside of my work hours). It was glorious.

Now that I’m a parent of two small children and come home to chores and tasks and homework and all the things you have to squeeze in to a 24-hour period (along with any sort of relaxation at the end of the day … Netflix on the couch, anyone?), sleep is the thing that gets squeezed out of my schedule.

I know skimping on sleep is not a healthy habit and that I need to make it more of a priority. But, like other busy people, I have a lot of priorities. What’s the motivation for more sleep?

It turns out I’m not the only Hoosier with this particular challenge. A recent article in the Indianapolis Star reports that more than 38% of Hoosiers say they don’t get the recommended amount of sleep per night (at least seven hours).

The article’s headline claims Indiana is the 8th most tired state. While we beat out Hawaiians (who came in last), the residents of South Dakota are seemingly very well rested.

Why should employers care if their employees aren’t prioritizing their rest?

Obviously, sleepy employees make for less productive employees. That’s not surprising.

What is surprising is how much the unrested employees might cost employers. The National Safety Council this week revealed a cost calculator to show the impact of sleepy employees.

Other concerns for employers include health care-related costs – from paying more over time for employees with sleep disorders who require medicine or machinery to get their required rest to the correlation to Indiana’s obesity rate, which can impact sleep quality. All of this can cost employers in terms of health care expenses and absenteeism issues.

So what is an employer to do? For one, the Wellness Council of Indiana offers employers a road map to implementing wellness programs in the workplace. Whether or not your wellness game plan directly targets the sleep of your employees, you can take steps to encourage your employers to eat, move and sleep better. Here are a number of resources you might find useful, including this article on sleep habits; one on workplace fatigue risk management; and this newsletter focusing on the dangers of insomnia and suggestions for how to deal with the condition.

You can also simply ask your employees if they feel well-rested and if there is any other way you can motivate them to get better rest. Perhaps an internal policy change regarding work hours or flexible scheduling could make a bigger impact than you realize. Even encouraging employees to make sure they take advantage of their vacation time could help ensure rested, rejuvenated employees who are ready to work.

What other ideas do you have for encouraging employees to get more rest (at home)?

Changing the Way We Work

7768406The Dolly Parton song and film “9 to 5” are 35 years old. If recreated today, there would undoubtedly need to be a new title.

A new CareerBuilder survey indicates that, much like flip phones and fax machines, the traditional eight-hour work day may be on its way out. More than 1,000 full-time workers in information technology, financial services, sales, and professional and business services – industries that historically have more traditional work hours – participated in the nationwide study, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder, to discuss their habits and attitudes toward the traditional nine-to-five work day.

According to the survey, 63 percent of workers in these industries believe “working nine to five” is an outdated concept, and a significant number have a hard time leaving the office mentally. Nearly 1 in 4 (24 percent) check work emails during activities with family and friends.

Today, many workers in these industries find themselves working outside of the traditional eight-hour time frame: 50 percent of these workers say they check or respond to work emails outside of work, and nearly 2 in 5 (38 percent) say they continue to work outside of office hours.

Though staying connected to the office outside of required office hours may seem like a burden, most of these workers (62 percent) perceive it as a choice rather than an obligation.

“Workers want more flexibility in their schedules, and with improvements in technology that enable employees to check in at any time, from anywhere, it makes sense to allow employees to work outside the traditional nine-to-five schedule,” says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder. “Moving away from a nine-to-five work week may not be possible for some companies (yet), but if done right, allowing employees more freedom and flexibility with their schedules can improve morale, boost productivity and increase retention rates.”

But just because the office – or the blackberry – is out of sight, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s out of mind: 20 percent of these workers say work is the last thing they think about before they go to bed, and more than twice as many (42 percent) say it’s the first thing they think about when they wake up. Nearly 1 in 5 of these workers (17 percent) say they have a tough time enjoying leisure activities because they are thinking about work.

Male workers in these fields are more likely than female workers to work outside of office hours (44 percent versus 32 percent); check or respond to work emails outside of work (59 percent versus 42 percent); and check on work activities while they are out with friends and family (30 percent versus 18 percent).

Female workers, however, are more likely than male workers to go to bed thinking about work (23 percent versus 16 percent).

When it comes to working outside of traditional office hours, 31 percent of 18- to 24-year-old workers in these fields will work outside of office hours, compared to 50 percent of 45- to 54-year-old workers and 38 percent of workers ages 55 and above. Meanwhile, 52 percent of workers ages 18-24 check or respond to work emails outside of work, versus 46 percent of workers ages 55 and above.


Just Pick Up the Phone, Please!

A recent CareerBuilder survey has some interesting numbers related to generational differences in the workplace. It focuses on communication and work styles, hours on task and career paths.

The one (of several) that jumps out for me is the fact that no one — no matter their age — wants to use the telephone anymore. As some of my co-workers can attest, this really bothers me. When a 30-second direct conversation (preferably in person but the phone will suffice in many instances) can replace many, many e-mails, why do people insist on hiding behind the keyboard?

There was the time I banned my team from using e-mail at all for internal communications. Maybe a bit extreme, but the point is valid — talk to/with people, not at them.

Anyway, here are the survey results. Some are revealing, while others confirm common perceptions.

Communication Styles

While a majority of both age groups expressed a preference for face-to-face communication, evidence of a small digital divide exists. The phone, however, has fallen out of favor across the board.

How do you most like to communicate at work?

· Face-to-face: 60 percent (ages 55+); 55 percent (ages 25-34)

· E-mail/Text: 28 percent (ages 55+); 35 percent (ages 25-34)

· Phone: 12 percent (ages 55+); 10 percent (ages 25-34)

Perspectives on Career Path

Younger workers tend to view a career path with a “seize any opportunity” mindset, while older workers are more likely to place value in loyalty and putting in the years before advancement.

You should stay in a job for at least three years:

· Ages 25-34 – 53 percent
· Ages 55+ – 62 percent

You should stay in a job until you learn enough to move ahead:

· 25-34 – 47 percent
· Ages 55+ – 38 percent

Similar contrasts were found when looking at promotions:

You should be promoted every 2-3 years if you’re doing a good job:

· Ages 25-34 – 61 percent
· Ages 55+ – 43 percent

Hours Working

Younger workers are more likely to log shorter hours than workers 55 and older.

Work eight hours or less per day:

· Ages 25-34 – 64 percent
· Ages 55+ – 58 percent

Older hiring managers are more likely to arrive to work earlier than younger managers but less likely to take work home with them.

Arrive earlier than 8 a.m.:

· Ages 25-34 – 43 percent
· Ages 55+ – 53 percent

Leave by 5:00 p.m.:

· Ages 25-34 – 38 percent
· Ages 55+ – 41 percent

Work after leaving the office:

· Ages 25-34 – 69 percent
· Ages 55+ – 62 percent

Younger workers are more open to flexible work schedules than their older counterparts.
Arriving on time doesn’t matter as long as work gets done:

· Ages 25-34 – 29 percent

· Ages 55+ – 20 percent

Work Styles

Different generations take a much more distinct approach to workplace projects. Younger generations are more likely to want to plan rather than “dive right in” to a new initiative.

I like to skip the process and dive right into executing:

· Ages 25-34 – 52 percent
· Ages 55+ – 66 percent

I like to write out a detailed game plan before acting:

· Ages 25-34 – 48 percent
· Ages 55+ – 35 percent

However, there is one area where older and younger workers see eye-to-eye: Approximately 60 percent of both groups prefer eating alone during lunch hour, as opposed to dining with their co-workers.