Future of Work

Why one company is paying its staff to sleep

Delegates rest during a break of the plenary session at the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP 20 in Lima December 13, 2014. U.N. talks on slowing climate change were threatened with collapse on Saturday after China clashed with the United States and led emerging nations to reject a compromise outline of an agreement

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Rachel Hallett
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Future of Work

We all know the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Not only does it make us feel better, it enables us to combat fatigue and work more productively. But one US company is taking this a step further and paying its employees if they get the recommended amount of rest.

Aetna, a US-based insurance group, has introduced a sleep scheme to encourage employees to get their 7 hours of shuteye each night.

The incentive? Cash.

“Being present in the workplace and making better decisions has a lot to do with our business fundamentals,” said Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini. “You can’t be prepared if you’re half-asleep.”

Getting paid to sleep

For every 20 nights an employee sleeps seven hours or more, Aetna rewards them with $25. This is limited to $300 within a 12-month period.

Aetna’s scheme began in 2014, with around 12,000 of the firm's 25,000 employees participating in the last year.

The hours they’ve slept can be recorded on fitness devices or self-reported by the staff- who are trusted to be honest.

Kay Mooney, Aetnas vice-president of employee benefits, says that Aetna likes to view itself as a “living laboratory, to see if this is something effective for other large employers as well”.

The importance of sleep

A recent Harvard Medical School study surveyed senior leaders and found that 96% reported experiencing at least some degree of burnout. One-third described their condition as extreme.

The study suggested that due to a constant pressure to be on call and available in our 24/7 culture, individuals were forgoing sleep in order to achieve success.

 The link between effective leadership and a good night's sleep is clear.
Image: McKinsey

However, this attitude can have negative effects on performance at work.

In the US, the National Institutes of Health recommends that adults have between 7-8 hours of sleep a night in order to avoid the negative side effects of sleep deprivation.

They suggest that ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work and learn.

In order to create a more positive and productive workforce, the importance of sleep cannot be ignored.

The Harvard Business Review recommends that for companies to encourage a good night’s sleep among their workforce, they should introduce learning programmes on the importance of sleep, and evaluate and rework company policies to encourage a good night’s sleep.

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