Pretend for a minute that you have a lot you want to do today. This is probably not a difficult task. You have important projects to get done for work, you want to spend time with family and friends, and you really would like to get a decent night’s sleep. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough hours in the day for you to get everything done. So what do you do less of?
MAINTAINING HEALTHY WORK-LIFE BALANCE
Research in the work-life balance literature mainly focuses on time spent at work and time spent with family. In other words, if you spend more time at work, you spend less time with family, and if you spend more time with family, you probably spend less time working. But what about other important activities that you do, like sleep?
Researchers (Barnes et al., 2012) recently found that people tend to take time away from sleep so that they can spend more time working and with family. This is probably not a surprise to you. In fact, spending more time working and with family has an increasingly negative effect on time spent sleeping. In other words, if you spend a little extra time at work, you probably won’t lose much sleep. But if you spend a lot of extra time at work, you will probably lose quite a bit of sleep.
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
Some of the top people in your organization are probably spending significantly more time working than do others in your company, and this likely means that they’re taking some time away from sleep in order to work extra. Getting insufficient sleep obviously has many negative consequences, so over time employee performance may actually decrease due to sleep deprivation. Therefore, don’t force your top performers to work longer hours, and perhaps try to support those who are working overtime. You can provide coffee at work, allow for scheduled naps, and make sure your employees aren’t working too much. Your employees will thank you for it.
Barnes, C. M., Wagner, D. T., & Ghumman, S. (2012). Borrowing from sleep to pay work and family: Expanding time-based conflict to the broader nonwork domain. Personnel Psychology, 65, 789-819.