August 18, 2013

‘Sleep-starved workers struggle to juggle family, work commitments’

By Omoh Gabriel

Workers across West Africa and Nigeria (36%) report that they have to sacrifice sleep to fit in personal and work commitments, either by waking up too early or by burning the midnight oil. Although flexible working is highlighted as a way to reduce commuting, create more hours in the day for sleep or family life and to improve productivity and staff retention, only 53 per cent of firms in Africa are rewarding management for encouraging the creation of a flexible workforce.

Renowned neurologist, Prof. Njideka Okubadejo of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and an associate professor, College of Medicine University of Lagos, has revealed that about 63 million Nigerians have sleep problem, which also affects about 45 per cent of the global world population. According to her, the dictates of the modern world has drastically reduced the “number of hours that people sleep because of the demand of their lifestyle or nature of their work.”

Okubadejo stated the consequences of lack of proper sleep include poor memory recall, decreased academic performance, decreased work productivity, reduced attention, alertness and concentration. Workers have highlighted that a shorter commute (32%) and greater flexibility of location (26%) would give them more time to spend with their families, as well as to catch some extra shut-eye, but businesses can also benefit from introducing greater flexibility which is reported to improve productivity (79%) and help retain staff (81%).

These are some of the key findings of a global survey by Regus, the world’s largest provider of flexible workplaces, based on interviews with more than 24,000 business-people from over 90 countries. The international study includes East, North and South Africa.

“Lack of sleep is clearly detrimental to a worker’s health and happiness with long working hours closely linked to heart disease,” says Joanne Bushell, Vice- President, Africa, for Regus. “Respondents highlight that a shorter commute and more flexibility over work location would help them spend more time with their families, finally spelling an end to sleepless nights filled with catching up on work or personal tasks that couldn’t be squeezed into the day.”

Globally 29 per cent of workers are sleeping less than they wish to fit all their commitments and in Africa, 36 per cent of workers are sacrificing sleep to fit in work and personal commitments, while 24 per cent feel they have to overcompensate time taken off for personal matters.

Workers highlight a shorter commute (32%) and location flexibility (26%) as ways of helping them spend more time with their families.

Currently, management is being rewarded for encouraging a flexible work environment only in half (53%) of firms. Bushell continues: “This survey shows that allowing employees to work closer to home in professional and fully efficient environments can have an important impact on family life and provide workers with a few more minutes’ kip each morning. But the benefits are not just for workers, and firms can also improve productivity and retention by introducing flexible working.