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Creating a sleep program to improve wellbeing and the employee experience

Benefits and the employee experience – Part 3

By Pheona Chua | March 18, 2022

Sleep deprivation can affect health, safety, wellbeing and work. Our latest article on benefits and the employee experience looks at how employers can support their workforce with a simple sleep campaign.
Health and Benefits|Benessere integrato|Employee Engagement
Modernising Benefits

Over 43% of the global workforce are sleep deprived, according to WTW’s 2022 Insurance Marketplace Realities Report. Restorative rest through quality sleep is important for employees to function well at work.

The contributing factors of sleep loss can vary for each person and may be a combination of conscious choices and involuntary causes. Occasional lack of sleep is generally not harmful. However, prolonged and unresolved sleep issues can inhibit employees’ work performance and negatively impact work relationships (Figure 1)2.

Symptoms of sleep deprivation

Figure 1. The effects lack of sleep can have on employees
Slow reaction times
Reduced attention span
Worsened memory
Poor or risky decision-making
Lack of energy
Vulnerable to stress
Amplified emotional reactions
Microsleep episodes

Sleep deprivation and sleep apnea are among key factors in workplace accidents, which can result in increased risk or financial loss to employers and insurers.1

In addition to occupational hazards, constant sleep loss can lead to chronic health problems and long-term physical issues, including coronary heart disease, diabetes, obesity, heart attack and immunodeficiency, according to the Sleep Foundation. Sleep deprivation can also contribute to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.2

Employers can raise awareness for the importance and positive impact of quality sleep through a simple sleep campaign.


Promoting healthy habits with a sleep campaign

Employers can raise awareness for the importance and positive impact of quality sleep through a simple sleep campaign. Here are some recommendations to get started:

  1. 01

    Design a communication plan

    Enhance employees’ understanding of quality sleep and the negative impact of poor sleeping habits on their overall health and wellbeing. Consider customised topics for different groups of employees, such as those with non-traditional work setups and those who work on night shift or flexible hours. This can be shared as bite-sized information to disseminate through various offline and online channels – such as posters and newsletters, intranet, emails and mobile apps – depending on the communication mode that works best for your employees.

  2. 02

    Introduce a digitalised solution

The future of sleep health is rapidly changing by integrating digital tools to manage sleep habits. As a sign that more organisations across the world are taking this seriously – one in five U.S employers are planning to introduce third-party digital, virtual or coaching solutions to employees for sleep in the near future.3

WTW recently partnered with Wellteq in a study on the effectiveness of a digital wellness app to engage, educate, socially connect and motivate employees in a sleep health and hygiene improvement program. The study found that 59% of participants improved their average nightly sleep duration with the aid of an app. The weighted average sleep duration increase was 38 minutes of nightly additional sleep achieved.

Use of a digital wellness app improved sleeping habits for employee participants - details below
  • 9% overall increase in nightly sleep duration
  • 71% of participants had an increase in average sleep duration
  • 38 minutes overall increase in nightly sleep
Figure 2. Use of a digital wellness app improved sleeping habits for employee participants

An engaging digital experience can help employees understand how to make the necessary behavioural changes to improve their sleep hygiene.

  1. 03

    Introduce mindfulness practices

    Employers can equip their workforce to cope with stressors that may impact sleep by offering classes or workshops to practise mindfulness and integrate this as part of their daily routine. Yoga and meditation programs may also help employees to manage stress and build resilience.

    Promote greater awareness for mindfulness, with an environment that supports and encourages employees to take regular breaks, and through sharing of educational materials and mindfulness reminders.

  2. 04

    Encourage an online detox

    Establish a culture where your employees know that they can unplug during breaks, after work and on days off. Encourage workers to take time to disconnect from technology and digital tools where possible, to relieve the mental stimulation that can come from being ‘always online’. Where practical, employers may even choose to introduce blackout times or days to restrict internal video meetings or screen time, to give employees a break.

    Tips for better quality sleep

    Avoid devices such as phones, TV's and laptops prior to sleep.

    Use blackout curtains to keep sunlight out, particularly for night or shift workers.

    Eliminate fluorescent light or sources of white light and blue light, which are conducive to wakefulness.

  3. 05

    Conduct a sleep assessment

    Consider partnering with a sleep health specialist to create a sleep assessment. The insights gathered can not only help employers to understand the climate of their workforce, but serve to help employees better understand their own sleep habits and be more aware of how they can improve their sleep.

    Employers can play a key role in offering targeted sleep and wellbeing initiatives to support their employees.

    Employees with sleep issues are likely to face poorer overall wellbeing and health issues. Employers can play a key role in offering targeted sleep and wellbeing initiatives to support their employees. A well-rested workforce can equate to a productive and safer work environment, and ultimately a more positive employee experience.

The next article in our series will switch gears to look at medical utilisation through the lens of the employee experience.


1 WTW 2022 Insurance Marketplace Realities

2 Sleep Foundation

3 WTW 2020 Health Care Delivery Survey (U.S.)

4 The Hidden Public Health Problem of Inadequate Sleep: Deploying Digital Mobile Technology to Improve Employee Sleep Hygiene in Asia


Associate Director, Corporate Health & Wellbeing, Asia & Australasia
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