Tired Employees Are Less Productive

New research shows that for every lost hour of uninterrupted sleep, employees are engaging in 12 additional minutes per hour of cyberloafing (using company time to check personal emails and visit non-work related websites). This lost time can be very costly to organizations seeking to maximize employee productivity.

So why does this happen? Past research has found that a lack of quality sleep is related to problems with self-monitoring and self-regulation. Sleepy employees are less able to stay focused, less likely to suppress their prejudices, and less likely to control addictive impulses (such as smoking). Thus, it stands to reason that if we lose sleep, we will be unable to control the overwhelming impulse that most of us share of checking our Facebook pages while at work.


To test this hypothesis, researchers examined data from Google search engines for a six year time period (involving data points from over 203 metropolitan areas). They found that the Mondays following the switch to daylight savings time (a day in which people typically sleep 40 minutes less than average), employees were searching for entertainment related websites at a rate of 3.1% more than the Mondays prior.

Based on these results, ninety-six undergraduate students were given sleep monitors to wear for one night to assess the quantity and quality of sleep that they engaged in. Students were then told to sit in front of a computer and watch a 42-minute video-recorded educational lecture, and naturally, many of them chose to spend this time surfing the net. Results of this experiment indicated that participants who slept for one hour less, spent 3 minutes more online (7% of the total task time). Participants who engaged in one hour less of uninterrupted sleep spent 8.4 minutes longer than average online (20% of the total task time). Had the task been one hour, this would translate into 12 additional minutes of cyberloafing! These differences were smaller for participants who scored highly on conscientiousness, as these types of employees were believed to try harder to control these cyberloafing impulses.


Based on this research, employers should do more to emphasize the importance of getting a good night’s rest. They should also be sensitive to making their employees work overtime and realize that trying to get more out of their employees by making them work into the night could end up causing lost productivity in the long run.


Wagner, D. T., Barnes, C. M., Lim, V. K. G., & Ferris, D. L. (2012).  Lost sleep and cyberloafing: Evidence from the laboratory and a daylight saving time quasi-experiment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97, 1068-76.