If you just yawned while reading this at work, I’m not offended. That’s because according to recent research from the staffing firm Accountemps a whopping 76 per cent of employees report being tired at work. Women, in particular, face unique challenges getting the rest we need. This is mainly due to increased family responsibilities.
A 2017 study by the University of Alberta, called Household chores: women still do more, found that, despite women making up almost 50 per cent of the labour force in Canada, in heterosexual relationships women still performed more housework than men.
And, if you think this imbalance only applies to women with young children, think again. The researchers found that the ratio of domestic work between the sexes does not change as we age. “Patterns of housework responsibility between men and women tend to be quite consistent at each life stage.”
“A good night’s rest has a tangible effect on quality of work — exhaustion often limits professionals’ ability to be focused, productive and positive members of their team,” said David King, Canadian president of Accountemps.
He says that managers should be looking for signs for employees being overly tired. “By offering realistic support, like temps to assist when workloads rise, guidance in prioritizing tight deadlines, and encouragement for employees to unplug after-hours, managers can help mitigate any work-related stressors keeping staff up at night,” he adds.
Productivity coach Clare Kumar, the founder of Streamlife, a productivity coaching company, “there are a lot of women, especially those in a new job, who feel like they need to make a good impression. They believe that means volunteering for every opportunity. They are willing to burn themselves out in order to please their boss. That has to stop.”
Kumar debunks the idea that taking a walk or grabbing a cup of coffee is the solution to the afternoon drain. If you find you are reading the same sentence over and over, or you can’t get work done, what you really need is sleep. “If your cognitive process is telling you that you are tired, that your brain actually needs to cleanse. You can do that by taking a 20-minute afternoon nap,” she adds.
The key to getting good rest is to figure out how many hours of sleep you actually need. To do this, she recommends count eight hours backward from the time you want to get up. So, if you want to be up by 6:00 AM, go to bed at 10:00 PM. Then see how you feel when you wake up. Are you still groggy? That means you need more than the recommended eight hours of sleep. On the other hand, if you are waking up earlier than 6:00 AM, you may be ok with only seven or seven and half hours of sleep.
Here are her tips to ensure you get the rest you need every night:
- Define your sleep number: Experiment with how much shut-eye you actually need. She says that number is usually between seven and nine hours.
- Have a sleep ritual. Take a warm bath, relax, read a book and then tuck yourself in to bed.
- Unplug hours before bed: Limit your food intake and smartphone use three hours before bed. Both can disrupt your sleep.
- Practice falling asleep: She recommends finding a mantra or saying that inspires you. Repeat it in your head as you try to fall asleep. She says it can be as simple as, I am relaxed and I’m falling asleep.
Both Kumar and King say a tired workforce is not good for anyone. It hurts an employee’s ability to perform, which hurts the company’s bottom line which then impacts growth. By making sleep and rest a priority everybody can benefit, especially the employee.