Businesses are losing thousands of pounds per year due to employees struggling with poor sleep and mental health issues such as depression, a new report has found.
Research from the scientists at Unmind, the workplace mental health platform, has revealed that presenteeism (lost productivity due to mental ill-health) is costing businesses approximately up to £5000 per worker, per year.
HR has approached the issue of staff wellbeing and burnout in a variety of ways in recent years. Some firms such as dating app Bumble and sports giant Nike announced office shutdowns to give their staff a chance to recharge.
And more recently, the publication of Unmind’s research coincides with reports from Bloomberg News that one two Japanese firms, Itoki Corp. and Koyoju Gohan KK, had partnered up to release vertical “nap boxes” to encourage a healthier office culture to the country, which is renowned for its intense labour practices, including some of the longest working days in the world.
"I think a lot of Japanese people tend to work continuously with no breaks," Kawashima said.
"We are hoping that companies can use this as a more flexible approach to resting.”
The rise of napping at work
Dedicated sleeping areas at work appear to be a long way from becoming a workplace norm, but they are far from new. In fact, some high profile employers are increasingly recognising the importance of sleep and some have introduced sleep pods in offices for staff needing a nap.
In 2021, nap pods maker MetroNaps revealed its pods were installed at Google’s HQ for staff looking to get some shut eye.
Sleep pods at the office also appear to be part of the company culture at the Huffington Post, too. Arianna Huffington, Co-Founder of The Huffington Post, told Sleep.org at the time: “When we first started the nap rooms, people were reluctant to use them.
“Now, we need to open a third one; they are so overbooked. People blog even about the impact it has on them to just get 20 minutes [of sleep] in the middle of the afternoon,” Huffington added.
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Sleep deprivation’s impact on the workforce
The idea of sleep pods (particularly the aforementioned ‘standing’ versions), might seem quirky at best and Orwellian at worst – the very notion of a device designed to let staff ease the strain of being overworked is an ironic one - but this idea has at least put the spotlight on the huge cost caused by sleep deprived and mentally unwell employees.
In fact, Unmind’s report – based on two studies conducted in collaboration with the University of Sussex – examined presenteeism in employees experiencing poor sleep or depressive symptoms, before and after being given relevant Unmind exercises to complete over a four to seven week period.
Results from these studies showed:
Presenteeism in participants suffering from depression (average 41%) dropped to just over a quarter (28.7%) – equating to a weekly average cost saving of £75.22. Over the year, this equates to £3,912 per employee.
Presenteeism in subjects suffering from lack of sleep (average 43.7%) dropped to just over a quarter (27.2%) – equating to an annual average of £5,049 per employee.
These studies were conducted to test and highlight the effectiveness of the brief interventions available on the Unmind platform for both depressive symptoms and poor sleep - but have also showcased how businesses could be losing vast amounts of money by ignoring the mental wellbeing of their staff.
Speaking on the findings, CEO and Co-Founder of Unmind, Dr. Nick Taylor said: “Shortfalls in productivity from employees struggling with their mental health can have a serious financial impact on businesses – let alone on the wellbeing of individuals themselves. While staff wellbeing should be the top priority for any business, viewing this through a financial lens can help bosses understand that workplace wellbeing can go beyond the scope of the individual.
“Unmind is proud of its science-based approach to mental wellbeing, and these studies show that the platform can help individuals take proactive steps to manage their own mental wellbeing – improving their productivity while also reducing the cost of presenteeism in the workplace. It’s about driving real cultural change around workplace wellbeing.”
Dr Marcos Economides, Head of Research at Unmind, added: “The explosion of digital mental health services and wellbeing providers in recent years has moved us closer to solving one of the key challenges of the mental health crisis we see before us – unfettered access to effective support. However, in order to ensure we build and maintain the trust of users, it’s imperative we know that what we’re offering works – and this can only be achieved through scientific rigour.
“We here at Unmind are dedicated to providing evidence-backed solutions to help our users create healthy routines to better manage their mental health. We’re proud that our recent studies, which uphold the highest standards of research best practice, have shown the power of our platform and the change we’re able to make in people’s lives, and also the companies who work with us.”