Good job design starts with 8 hours sleep

by | August 2017


This week APA hosted an evening discussing a subject at its core – Managing Mental Health in the Workplace.  Lucy Brogden, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC), was the guest speaker. According to the NMHC, one in two Australian adults will experience mental ill health at some point, which means mental health is everyone’s business.

To an audience of HR professionals from some of Australia’s largest organisations, Brogden highlighted the role that sleep deprivation plays in diminishing mental health and productivity. While workplace fatigue is often treated exclusively as an individual issue, Brogden suggests “it is best to take a holistic view on fatigue, including examining job design and organisational factors, which are beyond an individual’s control.”

A number of questions were raised by attendees regarding how to protect the mental health of their organisation’s people, or how to recognise when the company is causing mental and emotional distress.

“Good job design starts with 8 hours sleep,” said Brogden.  “I have all too often witnessed the impact of professional occupations encouraging a culture of bravado that celebrated working around the clock.”

In July this year, The Guardian asked its readers to share their experience about an issue prevalent among Australian doctors: unrelenting pressure, inhumane working hours, and brutal competition are driving health professionals to the brink of suicide.  Readers reported personal accounts of depression, anxiety, burnout, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The science clearly demonstrates that a sleep deprived workforce is bad for business, unproductive, and dangerous.
Insufficient sleep lowers brain function.  When you’re sleeping your brain’s neurons reprogram and prepare themselves for the next day.  When you don’t sleep you force your brain to overwork and become exhausted, which interferes with your level of alertness – affecting your focus and concentration.  The most observable consequences are a decrease in ability to process language, make decisions, or execute plans properly. The American Psychological Association’s Centre for Organisational Excellence has found that the loss in productivity for people trying to soldier through their workload is actually more costly than the treatment side, because people are at work, but not delivering to their full capacity.

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