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Sleep: an unexpected competitive advantage

As a small business owner, you likely know the drill – late nights, early mornings, and never quite enough hours in the day. Sacrificing sleep often seems the only solution when faced with mounting tasks and looming deadlines. You’re not alone, your team probably does the same. However, what if we told you that this approach was affecting your business’s productivity and bottom line?

The ‘hustle culture’ tends to undervalue sleep, but in reality, it’s the secret sauce of top performance, innovation, and efficiency – elements that small businesses need to thrive.

Clarity and innovation

Sleep is more than just resting – it’s your brain’s time to recharge, organise thoughts, and solve complex problems. A well-rested brain is sharper, more creative, and ready to tackle the day’s challenges. Prioritising sleep can mean the difference between a breakthrough idea or a stagnated strategy.

Team dynamics

Ever noticed a negative shift in the office right after a big deadline push? Sleep deprivation doesn’t just affect performance, it influences our social interactions too. It can lead to irritable behaviour, reduced stress tolerance, and decreased empathy – all of which can strain your tight-knit team dynamics. Prioritising rest can not only boost productivity but also foster better collaboration.

Health and energy

There are physical repercussions of sleep deprivation too. For a small business, this might translate into employees with lower energy levels, more sick days, and decreased overall productivity. Chronic sleep deprivation can also lead to more serious health issues that could leave your team side-lined for longer than you can afford.

How to create a sleep-awakening

Implement casual reinforcement

Next time you have a staff meeting where you’re recognising hard work, especially after a high-pressure period, acknowledge their dedication but also use it as an opportunity to touch on the importance of recuperation and the role of sleep in sustaining high performance. Make it a point to appreciate not just the hard work, but also the ability to rest and recharge, emphasising that burning the midnight oil isn’t the goal.

When it comes to sharing resources on the importance of sleep, consider a less formal approach like giving interesting and relevant sleep-related facts, articles, or quick tips during breaks or in casual chats. You could even integrate a ‘sleep fact of the week’ into your regular communications to foster a culture of microlearning and reinforce respect for work-life balance.

Drive digital detox

Motivate your team to disengage from work-related devices during post-work hours. Walk the talk by endorsing a policy that confines after-work communication to pressing matters only. Those late-night WhatsApp messages, even with an “ignore till morning” preamble, can be disruptive.

Pro tip: Give yourself permission to rest and save that message for the morning. By drawing a clear line between work and downtime, you not only support healthier sleep habits but also reinforce your dedication to respecting your team’s personal time.

Promote exercise

Regular physical activity can improve sleep quality. Consider subsidising gym memberships or encouraging lunch-time walks. Healthy bodies lead to healthier sleep.

Address stress

Stress and poor sleep often go hand in hand. Consider providing access to mindfulness apps or organising wellness activities that can help your team manage stress and, consequently, sleep better.

In the same vein as casual reinforcement, you could try introducing practices like 5-minute group meditations before staff meetings, for example. There are studies that prove the benefits of short meditations. Like a study by the Massachusetts General Hospital done in 2013, where they investigated the benefits of an 8-week mindfulness meditation program. Participants reported a significant decrease in stress levels, which was corroborated by MRI scans showing reduced activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for stress responses. While this study involved structured, consistent practice over a period, it did show that even short bouts of meditation can contribute to stress reduction, which in turn has associated benefits for sleep and overall wellness.

Try progressive approaches

Consider introducing dedicated wellness rooms in your office. NASA states that a 26-minute power nap can boost performance by a whopping 34%, without causing the sleep issues at night like an afternoon coffee would. A quick power nap can boost alertness and cognitive function. It might sound unconventional, but sleep pods or nap rooms are a growing trend in the corporate world. Google has been doing this for years. They show you’re serious about well-being and performance, and will no doubt have an additional benefit of helping to attract and retain talent.

Lead by example

You set the tone for your team. If they see you prioritising rest, they are more likely to do the same. Show them that sleep is a crucial ingredient for success, not a barrier.

Will your business invest in sleep?

Time is money, a mantra every small business owner knows by heart. However, the compelling link between sleep and productivity implies that sleep, too, has its own currency. It’s not just a necessity, it’s an investment. By acknowledging and championing the power of sleep in your organisation, you pave the way for habits that may just lead to a competitive edge, driving your business towards its true potential.

Compcare Medical Scheme is a proud Partner of the NSBC

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