Sleep: The Greatest Business Influencer You Neglect

If you forgot to set your alarm, would you sleep past the point of when you were anticipating waking up? If the answer is yes, you are sleep deprived.

First theorized in 1943, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has become cognitively contagious. Despite its simplicity, it has greatly influenced the field of psychology and played a pivotal role in the shaping of organizational behavior. Maslow believes that to be a truly healthy human being you must satisfy a certain number of needs and that they are hierarchal in order from primitive to cognitive. In other words, the things you need to live (literally), and the things you need to live in profound happiness.

I am constantly searching for ways to improve the lives of our employees, and by result, the performance of our business. I often leverage Maslow’s Hierarchy to evaluate ways to better support our team in their individual pursuit of self-actualization. It is common for businesses to adopt practices designed to satisfy psychological and self-fulfillment needs such as creativity, problem-solving, recognition, achievement, and self-esteem. However, most organizations neglect the basic needs category, assuming employees have that one covered by way of a paycheck (air, water, sleep, shelter, etc.).

This got me thinking. Is there a way I can better understand the influence of some of our basic human needs on employee health and work performance to optimize our business practices? So, I picked one that impacts everyone and everything. Sleep.

I decided to read “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker. Holy ****. Let’s just say I feel guilty writing this content rather than being asleep. This modern-day science empowered deep dive into the impact of sleep on the human condition is a must-read. Matthew Walker, a preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert, “provides a revolutionary exploration of sleep, examining how it affects every aspect of our physical and mental well-being. Charting the most cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and marshaling his decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels, regulate hormones, prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, slow the effects of aging, and increase longevity. He also provides actionable steps towards getting a better night’s sleep every night.”

It became very clear of the impact and influence sleep has on employee health, concentration, memory retention, and focus. It made me rethink how we conduct business and start to challenge the social-norm driven requirements of a standard workday. If someone arrives home super late from a business trip, is it wise to require that person to show up to work first thing in the morning at the expense of sleep? With caffeine having a 6-hour half-life, should we encourage no coffee after 10 am? Should our employees with infants be required to take a daily siesta at the office if they are lacking sleep? Should we be investing in sleep-related education and training?

I have concluded that the answer is a profound yes. As business leaders, it is critical we structure and operate our businesses to maximize the mental and physical health of our employees. Modern-day society has evolved to a point where sleep is neglected and something we sacrifice constantly. The unspoken impacts are severe. Thus, we need to be more conscious of what we require from employees and ensure their basic needs are met. More importantly, we need to be mindful of designing our business operations around the modern-day life of an employee. Remain flexible, and focus on the needs of each individual and you will be amazed at the increase in business performance.

For those that don’t have the time to read Mathew Walker’s book, check out his Google Talk. It will tell you most of what you need to know. And if you struggled to concentrate reading this, get some sleep.

If you forgot to set your alarm, would you sleep past the point of when you were anticipating waking up? If the answer is yes, you are sleep deprived.

First theorized in 1943, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has become cognitively contagious. Despite its simplicity, it has greatly influenced the field of psychology and played a pivotal role in the shaping of organizational behavior. Maslow believes that to be a truly healthy human being you must satisfy a certain number of needs and that they are hierarchal in order from primitive to cognitive. In other words, the things you need to live (literally), and the things you need to live in profound happiness.

I am constantly searching for ways to improve the lives of our employees, and by result, the performance of our business. I often leverage Maslow’s Hierarchy to evaluate ways to better support our team in their individual pursuit of self-actualization. It is common for businesses to adopt practices designed to satisfy psychological and self-fulfillment needs such as creativity, problem-solving, recognition, achievement, and self-esteem. However, most organizations neglect the basic needs category, assuming employees have that one covered by way of a paycheck (air, water, sleep, shelter, etc.).

This got me thinking. Is there a way I can better understand the influence of some of our basic human needs on employee health and work performance to optimize our business practices? So, I picked one that impacts everyone and everything. Sleep.

I decided to read “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker. Holy ****. Let’s just say I feel guilty writing this content rather than being asleep. This modern-day science empowered deep dive into the impact of sleep on the human condition is a must-read. Matthew Walker, a preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert, “provides a revolutionary exploration of sleep, examining how it affects every aspect of our physical and mental well-being. Charting the most cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and marshaling his decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels, regulate hormones, prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, slow the effects of aging, and increase longevity. He also provides actionable steps towards getting a better night’s sleep every night.”

It became very clear of the impact and influence sleep has on employee health, concentration, memory retention, and focus. It made me rethink how we conduct business and start to challenge the social-norm driven requirements of a standard workday. If someone arrives home super late from a business trip, is it wise to require that person to show up to work first thing in the morning at the expense of sleep? With caffeine having a 6-hour half-life, should we encourage no coffee after 10 am? Should our employees with infants be required to take a daily siesta at the office if they are lacking sleep? Should we be investing in sleep-related education and training?

I have concluded that the answer is a profound yes. As business leaders, it is critical we structure and operate our businesses to maximize the mental and physical health of our employees. Modern-day society has evolved to a point where sleep is neglected and something we sacrifice constantly. The unspoken impacts are severe. Thus, we need to be more conscious of what we require from employees and ensure their basic needs are met. More importantly, we need to be mindful of designing our business operations around the modern-day life of an employee. Remain flexible, and focus on the needs of each individual and you will be amazed at the increase in business performance.

For those that don’t have the time to read Mathew Walker’s book, check out his Google Talk. It will tell you most of what you need to know. And if you struggled to concentrate reading this, get some sleep.

Ben Hubbard