Leadership Pro Tip: Encourage Your Employees to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Association leaders are in a position to help improve their employees’ work-life balance—and recent research suggests promoting consistent sleep is one way to do it.

Discussions about leadership often revolve around big-picture things like strategy and vision. But sometimes, good leadership involves a little reflection on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

One of those needs is a good night’s sleep, and leaders are in position to remind their team just how important it really is, according to a recent study.

With that in mind, here’s why you should encourage your team to get a good night’s sleep.

What’s the Strategy?

In ‌How Are You Sleeping? Leadership Support, Sleep Health, and Work-Relevant Outcomes [PDF], researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and the University of South Carolina make a case for “sleep leadership,” in which leaders encourage employees to be well-rested and take steps to ensure that work doesn’t undermine that goal.

As the report notes—and as almost any working person can attest—a person’s job often interferes with the ability to sleep. The study, which describes itself as one of the first attempts to see if leaders encouraging rest is effective in improving employee well-being, is based on an analysis of U.S. Army soldiers who were given feedback from their leaders on receiving rest.

“Soldiers with leaders who engaged in strong sleep leadership at an initial time point showed positive changes in both sleep quantity and sleep quality over the course of four to five months,” lead author Brian Gunia, a business school professor and associate dean at Johns Hopkins, said in a news release. “Our study cannot conclusively demonstrate causality, but by focusing on change, our statistical model does suggest that one contributed to the other.”

Why Is It Effective?

Setting an example for employees can help them build better habits. Gunia points to two ways that leaders can do this: encouraging, by explicitly telling employees to get some rest, and enabling, by adopting supportive policies—say, banning late-night emails.

“We argue that behaviors like these create conditions directly conducive to healthier sleep,” he said in the release.

What’s the Potential?

A related issue involves a leader’s control over employee schedules. Psychologist Leslie Hammer, Ph.D., a professor with the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences who has researched sleep leadership, told Mashable that inflexible control over the way an employee works can be harmful.

“The practices of such tight control over workers’ schedules and behaviors lead to higher levels of employee stress and strain through excessive pressures to perform and the inability of workers to adjust work schedules as needed to accommodate non-work life and responsibilities such as parent or child care,” she said.

Letting employees determine a work schedule that fits their needs and encouraging them to catch up on sleep can both contribute to an environment where your team can be healthier and more productive.

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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