Sleep well to work well: Chris Barnes @ TEDx

Want to be more efficient and more effective at work? Get a good night’s sleep.

This deceptively simple solution is the recurring theme of the recent TEDx Talk delivered by Chris Barnes, an associate professor of management at the UW Foster School of Business.

In the address, Barnes runs through his pioneering research on sleep deprivation and its litany of ill effects in the workplace.

He begins by establishing that sleeplessness affects everyone—despite common misperceptions of personal immunity.

“You might think of yourself as invulnerable against sleep deprivation, like you have a superpower that protects you,” he says, before noting a study in which the performance of an individual working on four-straight nights of five hours sleep resembles that of a person too drunk to legally drive.

Barnes demonstrates the dangers of sleep deprivation in the workplace, citing his own studies demonstrating that lack of quality sleep renders us less cooperative, more selfish and poorer team players. It makes us more likely to behave unethically. Less likely to be engaged and satisfied at work. More likely to cyberloaf, perform poorly and get injured on the job.

“All things you should care about from a business perspective,” he says.

And the toll is even greater when fatigue hits organizational leaders. Barnes discusses additional studies showing sleep-deprived supervisors tend to be more abusive and less charismatic and able to inspire.

So, what’s the solution?

Barnes advises forming healthy habits conducive to a good night’s sleep. For instance, a study of his indicates that digital devices undermine sleep and should be turned off at night.

He also suggests that organizations and industries follow the lead of medicine and transportation in realigning schedules to better follow our natural circadian rhythms of sleep and wakefulness.

Leaders also should institute healthy work schedules (such as flextime). And, according to a new study, when leaders model healthy attitudes toward sleep, they set positive norms that employees tend to follow. When supervisors value sleep, subordinates tend to sleep more, too.

“We should sleep well so that we can work well,” he says.

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