Lullaby Baby? How CEOs can Help their Staff get More Sleep

We've all heard of the seemingly superhuman sleep habits of some CEOs, such as Yahoo's Marissa Mayer, who famously claimed to get by on just four hours a night. But all those genetic freaks fortunate enough to function almost entirely around the clock shouldn't impose their ability on the rank and file.

To the contrary, CEOs must take it upon themselves to actively encourage staff to get enough shut-eye, according to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer.

Sleep deprivation can crimp productivity, raise safety risks and wreck people’s home lives, Sandberg said, while this week helping to promote Ariana Huffington’s new online health venture Thrive.

A sleep cycle lasts around 90 minutes and it’s generally encouraged to try and notch at least four cycles a night, but probably more like five, or even six. (For readers too tired to do the math, that converts to between six and nine hours—not including the time it takes to fall asleep).

“It’s incumbent upon all of us who run companies to make sure that people can make ends meet and have the ability to get a good night’s sleep.

“It’s incumbent upon all of us who run companies to make sure that people can make ends meet and have the ability to get a good night’s sleep,” Sandberg said.

But, other than bringing a bottle of Temazepam or a wooden club to work, what can CEOs do in practice?

1. Set boundaries. For one, leaders might want to consider setting so-called “disconnect” times, when calling or even sending emails is discouraged. The idea has gained particular traction in France, which just introduced a new labor law banning companies from sending emails to employees outside normal working hours.

2. Consider pods. There’s a famous Simpsons episode where Homer impresses his one-time boss, Hank Scorpio, by hanging work hammocks to help staff rest on the job. The idea is no longer a joke, with Facebook and Google among companies to install “nap pods” in their offices.

3. Offer incentives. The wide array of sleep-measuring apps now available could allow managers to award staff who get more rest. Sound crazy? Not according to Mark Bertolino, the CEO of health insurer Aetna, who pays staff $25 a night if they can prove they slept seven hours for 20 nights in a row.

4. Be perceptive. Sometimes being able to tell if someone is struggling simply comes down to a manager’s own powers of perception. Is someone looking a bit tired or do they keep losing their temper? Maybe it’s time to give them an early mark.

Of course, leaders can’t tell how their staff are fairing if they’re not alert themselves. Indeed, for every Marissa Mayer of this world, there’s another CEO, like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who tries to get at least eight hours sleep each night.


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