Wake Up! Working Tired, and What We Need to Do About It

Man sleeping at his desk at night

With the biannual switching of the clocks (Daylight Savings Time) — and the lost sleep that follows it — you might want to stay awake long enough to read this: We’re all (well, three-fourths of us, according to a new Accountemps survey) working tired, and we could use a nap.

In my first job out of college, I worked in an iconic office building with two Victorian relics that made me laugh — a men’s smoking room and a ladies fainting room. I never saw a woman faint, but I did see a few of them sacked out on those sixth-floor couches.

But I digress …

These days, technology allows us to work around the clock (says I, writing this long after sunset), and some businesses actually encourage us to sleep on the job. Self-described sleep evangelist Ariana Huffington had two rooms built for napping at the The Huffington Post headquarters, and like Google and Zappos, she’s invested in her staff’s extra winks with futuristic sleeping pods.

Why it’s not a good idea to work tired

Exhaustion is to blame for plenty of mistakes at work — like a $20,000 miscalculation on a purchase order or a missed decimal point causing an overpayment of $1 million.

Those were just two sleep-induced errors mentioned in the Accountemps survey of more than 1,000 professionals. One respondent blamed fatigue on an accident that paid everyone twice, and another said sleeplessness led to the deletion of a project that took 1,000 hours to put together.

Other side effects of sleep deprivation in the workplace are a lack of focus or distraction, according to 52 percent of the respondents, procrastination (47 percent), and grumpiness on the job (38 percent).

Download an infographic of the survey findings, or scroll below to see it.


The Cost of Working Tired


What’s a manager to do?

So if working tired is costing companies money, employers would be well-served by stopping the burning of the midnight oil. But how?

“Offering a more flexible schedule may alleviate long and costly commutes,” is one of several suggestions from Bill Driscoll, a district president for Accountemps. “Bringing temporary staff on board may cut down on your employees having to work after-hours. Reorganizing current priorities may lead to more manageable workloads.”

Learn more about how staffing services can offer a fresh set of eyes for finding interim accounting and finance professionals.

Here are some other tips for bosses:

  • Make sure you “walk the talk.” Don’t be that manager who tells your staff to leave work at 5 p.m. and then sends emails to everyone until midnight. Take occasional breaks yourself, work reasonable hours, and inspire the people around you with your energy and enthusiasm.

  • Emphasize work-life balance as part of your corporate culture, with wellness programs and nonmonetary incentives. Offer alternative work arrangements, like flextime, remote working or job-sharing options.

  • Encourage your finance team members to take breaks. Lunch or coffee breaks aren’t required by federal law, but some states impose mandatory rest periods for employees in specific industries.

  • Give time off to unplug and recharge. A day off here and there and vacation time can actually boost on-the-job productivity for your staff members.

  • Meet with your team collectively and as individuals to evaluate what’s on their plate, help prioritize workloads and set realistic expectations. Make sure they have all of the resources they need to do their work assignments and that the tasks are divided fairly among team members.

You may not be ready to put in any high-tech nap rooms or low-tech fainting rooms, but there are ways to cope with the phenomenon of working tired.

Sweet dreams!

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