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Managers choose productivity over good nights rest

21st Jul 2021
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Overworked managers sacrifice sleeping the recommended 7-9 hours a night in order to feel more productive, new research from emlyon business school finds. Despite the many benefits of getting a good night’s sleep, managers reported feeling more productive on days they slept less, as they had more time to spend at work.

This research was conducted by Gordon Sayre, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Leadership at emlyon business school, alongside colleagues from Pennsylvania State University.

The researchers were keen to understand the trade-off between sleep and work for managers, and which took more precedence in these manager’s lives. In order to explore this trade-off, the researchers interviewed 98 hotel managers, who participated in an 8-day daily diary study focused on work and home interactions. Each day, the managers were asked a series of questions about the previous night’s sleep and their work day, focusing on sleep duration, work mood, work time and perceived productivity.

Results indicated that managers who slept less put those extra hours into their work time, and felt more productive as a result. In fact, managers worked 31 min, 12 s longer for every hour of sleep lost.

Professor Sayre says,

“We know that sleep has benefits to our health, happiness, and performance. Despite this, many adults aren’t getting the recommended 7-9 hours per night. Our research points to one potential reason for this gap—concerns over productivity. When under pressure to perform, managers may feel they have to sacrifice sleep in order to get work done. While understandable, it’s important to note that any small gains in productivity are far outweighed by the long-term costs of not getting enough sleep”.

To address this problem, Professor Sayre suggests that organisations must work towards reducing and eliminating this trade-off between sleep and work for managers, by encouraging a healthier work-life balance. One potential avenue is to actively combat the “face time” culture present in many jobs, where managers feel pressured to put in unnecessarily long hours in order to appear productive.

Professor Sayre says, “Organizations should carefully evaluate their present culture—including whether long hours are incentivized more than actual results. Role modeling appropriate work–life balance from top leadership is also important to creating healthy norms around sleep and work.”

This research was published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

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