The current pandemic is stressful. Workers are worried about the security of their jobs in future, the health of their families and many are juggling personal life commitments while trying to hold down a job.
It seems that this uncertainty is having an impact on health. According to new data released by King’s College London researchers, more than half of the UK population has struggled with sleep during this period of lockdown – which will likely have an impact on employees and their level of productivity at work.
The BBC reported that sleeping problems were more common among those facing financial hardship, while two in five stated that they were having more vivid dreams than usual. This national anxiety is even affecting the quality of sleep for those who can switch off; some people in the study reported sleeping for longer than usual, but without feeling rested.
The researchers said lack of sleep may have knock-on effects on people's capacity to be resilient during the pandemic, and there are signs of a disproportionate impact on particular groups: women, younger people and those facing financial difficulties.
"As with so much about COVID-19, the crisis is affecting people very differently depending on their circumstances, and that includes the most fundamental aspects of life, such as sleep," Professor Bobby Duffy of King's College London said in the release.
He also explained that nearly two-thirds of the public reported some negative impact on their sleep, showing just how unsettling the pandemic and lockdown measures have been.
The King’s College findings are based on online interviews conducted in late May with 2,254 UK respondents between the 16 to 75 age bracket.
Of course, having a sleep-deprived workforce can cause problems for employers because tired staff could pose as a health and safety risk, they could make more mistakes and their performance and communication could deteriorate.
So, how can HR help sleep-deprived employees?
It’s essential that businesses create an understanding environment, where employees can be open with their managers about any sleep-related issues that are hampering them at work.
That way, line managers and employees can identify the risks to health and wellbeing in the workplace together and gather the right information to help them put plans in place to manage risks.
This can be especially important when changes to work schedules or significant changes like organisational restructuring are planned.