lack of sleep is making you less productive, wrong moves that new managers make, and more

Over at the Fast Track by QuickBase today, I take a look at several big work-related stories in the news right now: lack of sleep is making you less productive, wrong moves that new managers make, and more. You can read it here.

{ 35 comments… read them below }

  1. Zip Silver*

    I go to sleep at around 7pm and get my day started at 3:30 am. Takes a little getting used to, but I’m more productive in the morning and would much rather use my free time then, instead of after work in the evening.

  2. Brogrammer*

    These kinds of studies are always disheartening to me as someone with sleep problems. If I spent 8 hours a night in bed, that means I’ll probably get 6 hours of sleep. I’ve always been somewhat in awe of people who can just decide to sleep because on the rare occasion that I do manage to get 8 hours’ sleep, I feel like I could conquer the world. My work is generally good, but I can’t help but wonder how much more productive I’d be if my brain was willing to cooperate and sleep the amount that I need on a regular basis.

    1. Junior Dev*

      Yeah, I feel like the usefulness of this is probably more for managers who wouldn’t respect their employees’ need to sleep, and do stuff like schedule someone to work closing shift on Tuesday and opening shift on Wednesday. (Which is depressing in itself–you only care about my health when it impacts your bottom line?)

      As an individual, it’s a bit like all those studies that were popular a few years ago saying “sitting will kill you!!!!!!” And…? A lot of us don’t have any other choice if we want to keep out livelihood.

      I liked the Onion’s take on it (link in next comment)

      1. Junior Dev*

        *keep OUR livelihood, aaaa

        I didn’t mean to ignore your specific note about sleep problems, btw. I have an anxiety disorder which is exacerbated by work stress, and at my last job (before I got laid off) I could never sleep well and it caused a vicious cycle where I would not sleep, do badly at work because I couldn’t concentrate, drink coffee to compensate, and be a nervous wreck lying awake at night dreading the whole thing repeating the next day.

        I also have back problems that my last job did not take seriously and had to spend hundreds of dollars on my own ergonomic chair to avoid exacerbating them.

      2. Brogrammer*

        The Onion is the best. And yes, managers really should remember that their employees aren’t machines and need to sleep because even if an employee doesn’t have sleep problems, messing with their schedules can mess up their sleep.

  3. Justin*

    I think sleep is more important for personal well being, I wish people would see it that way rather than as a way to be more productive.

    1. Lemon Zinger*

      But being productive IS part of overall well-being. I feel happier when I’m well-rested because that makes me more able to do well at work AND fulfill my obligations at home.

      1. Honeybee*

        Yeah, this. Being productive means that I am better able to disengage when I go home from work. If I didn’t get done everything I needed to get done in the day, I worry at home and my brain thinks about work when I should be at home. So if I’m well-rested, I’m productive at work, I get home, disengage, and I still have enough energy to do what I want to do.

  4. Justin*

    One thing I’ve seen with some managers is that they delegate the wrong things and try to micromanage the wrong things. They’ll get bogged down in details that their employees should be able to handle but then when faced with fairly major decisions about direction or resources, they’ll defer it: “You figure it out.” And then at the end of the project they’ll quibble over the details.

    1. smokey*

      Yes! My manager won’t trust us to manage the department’s junk drawer but a whole project? No input, no opinion.

  5. RetailShmetail*

    I always love the people who try to tell you to go to bed and get up at the same time every day. I work retail and it’s not uncommon for me to get out of work at 11:30 p.m. and have to be in the next day at 8:00 a.m. If I tried to live my life going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, I would be sleeping from 1 to 6 a.m. everyday.

    1. Nolan*

      Ah, the dreaded clopen! When I did the schedule for my old retail job, I made a point to not do that to anyone! I remember a couple times where due to pto or something it couldn’t be avoided, I always felt bad scheduling those.

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      Exactly. I’m salaried and work in a role that requires me to work non-regular work hours all the time. I hardly ever know when I’m going to get home from an event, and even when I do, I have to eat dinner, shower, etc. before I can go to bed.

    3. Honeybee*

      I think that advice is, sadly, mostly for people who have regular hours. If you have irregular hours it makes it really difficult to do that.

    4. Pommette*

      “Go to bed and get up at the same time every day” is, obviously, sound advice. But when the solution to a problem is that obvious, you should assume that people who still have the problem probably have it because the solution doesn’t work for them.
      In rare cases, it’s because people are too oblivious to do what they know should be doing. I was one of those people: I slept insufficient and irregular hours throughout grad school, constantly trying to catch up to work that would have been so much easier if I hadn’t been exhausted. After moving in with my partner, I adopted his schedule and was shocked at how much more energetic and lucid I felt on 7 hours of sleep a night. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t know that I needed more, and more regular, sleep. It was that I saw sleep as a luxury that could only afford once I had caught up to all of the things that I needed to do. No amount of advice would have convinced me otherwise.
      And let’s face it: most people who are chronically sleep deprived are in that state because of outside factors: irregular schedules, sleeping disorders, familial obligations, or any of a thousand other possibilities. They would love to go to bed and get up at the same times every day. They can’t.

  6. James*

    Two things jump out at me regarding the sleep thing:

    1) The bins aren’t properly defined. 7 hours is in both categories. This is likely due to confusion regarding how bins were assigned–“X to 7” and “7 to X” are legitimate bins, so long as the researchers made clear which bin 7 hours went into, but often confuse reporters.

    Still, the lack of discussion of human variation is not a good sign. Humans don’t all need the same amount of sleep, and a one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t work. And it’s variable for each person, based on numerous factors. After ten days of field work (labor-intensive, long days, and not so great food) I need 9 to 10 hours of sleep a night; if I’m in the office 6 to 7 is my sweet spot.

    2) You can’t always control how much sleep you get. Insomnia and other sleep issues can destroy the best of intentions. Plus, having a baby basically destroys your sleep schedule for a while.

    1. hbc*

      I agree on the variability. I know a couple of people who are sharp as tacks and seem to thrive on 4-6 hours of sleep. I know some others who are legitimately non-functional on less than 9. Me, I gave up naps before age 1 and couldn’t sleep for more than 8 hours at age 4, so I’m pretty sure I’m not delusional about me just…not needing as much sleep as the average person.

      Obviously, being sleep-deprived is bad. What it takes to stay out of that state is highly individual.

      1. MsCHX*

        I spent many years legitimately baffled by people who functioned on 4-5 ish hours. I need 8. NEED. 7 leaves me foggy and anything less than that leaves me completely spaced.

        It’s fascinating.

        1. Emma*

          I need exactly 9 hours, but fortunately they don’t need to be continuous. (I have a sleep disorder.) But I can’t get anything really productive done in the 1-2 hour gap I’m up, so it’s not like I could sleep 4 hours, work, then sleep 5.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I can get by on six. Seven is ideal. Eight makes me lethargic–it’s too much and anything over that only happens if I’m sick. If I only get five, I’m a zombie most of the morning and only have a tiny window when my coffee hits when I’m anything approaching productive until the next zombie period strides.

      2. Hrovitnir*

        Yeah, I’m pretty sure I need 9 hours sleep to function optimally. I generally get about 7, and I feel like shit most of the time: and I go to bed with plenty of time to get 8-9 hours. Unfortunately, needing less sleep is seen as toughness rather than individual variation.

      3. James*

        I usually need 7 to 8 (periods involving small offspring not withstanding), but I’ve found I have a weird sweet spot at 5 hours. If I get 6, I need 7; if I get 5 hours, I’m good to go for the day. I can do that for about a week, then need to crash. But it’s useful to know when things get busy, or if I need to push hard for some reason.

    2. Tableau Wizard*

      I fondly remember sleeping through the night, but alas between the end of pregnancy and baby, it’s been months and months and months…

    3. Honeybee*

      I think the first bin is between 6 and 7 hours whereas the second bin is more than 7 (so, like, 7.0000…1) to 9 hours. Either way, few people sleep exactly 7 hours a night anyway, so it doesn’t matter so much.

      Also, social scientists focus on averages and making generalizations across populations. That said, the variation is in the middle chunk – the 7 to 9 hour group. Generally, most humans need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night to be healthy and well-rested. The human who needs only 6-7 hours of sleep is less common, and humans who can function well on less than 6 hours are more uncommon still. That’s kind of the point of the article.

      1. James*

        I figured that was the case with the bins–but as I said, it’s sloppy reporting.

        Regarding applying averages across populations, I studied biology and am very, very aware of the problem with that. It’s the whole Daisyworld thing: variation is inherent in any population, as evidenced by the fact that evolution is a thing. This becomes incredibly important in medicine (and this is a medical issue), because, to quote Dr. Cox, the average is meaningless to the individual. While you and I realize that variation is important, folks less scientifically literate may (and in my experience will) read this and think “If I don’t get 7 to 9 hours I’m screwed!” I’ve seen that sort of thinking with diets, for example: people think that they need to have “The One True Healthy Body Type” and end up in serious trouble. I’m not talking anorexia or other eating disorders, just that they screw their health up enough trying to reach an impossible goal that they end up in pretty serious medical trouble, despite eating what for others would be a healthy diet. One-size-fits-all thinking is dangerous–perhaps not in the case of sleep (though the article suggests otherwise), but I’d much rather be objecting to it in minor cases like this than in major cases where misapplication of the principles we’re discussing can get people killed!

  7. Callalily*

    I wish I could’ve showed this to my last manager… it was my first job and her first time managing.

    She had an AWFUL tendency to turn requirements into suggestions by literally laughing/smiling when she said things. Once my phone was going off repeatedly on my desk (we are allowed to have them out and not on DND), she noticed and started making light conversation about my personal life and very jokingly said “You should tell them that you nearly got fired for them texting you!” with a roaring laugh at the end.

    Weeks later I got called into the big boss’s office and torn apart because she apparently had given me a ‘final warning’ about the inappropriateness of having my phone out and told me the next step would be a firing.

    After a crying filled explanation from me about how she had never had a serious comment to make about this he cut me some slack… but yet also didn’t seem to truly believe that she would’ve told me I legitimately would be fired as a joke.

    She then got a call into his office where I assume he let her have it… I almost wish they fired me that day because she made the next year a living hell. She seemed to take it so personally that she’d snap at me for wasting time when signing a document (like the extra second to dot an i made a difference).

  8. Not So NewReader*

    It’s amazing to me that companies do not see the correlation between working long hours and health care costs. People have to sleep. It is not abnormal, it is not a show of weakness/inferiority/lack of caring or whatever other lame-bullying thing companies think of to say.

    I know too many people putting in 14 plus hour days. One person who worked 36 hours straight, by hour 22 someone else had to do his driving for him. Yes, he had to drive as part of his job (not trucks).

    Here they have to give you 8 hours between shifts. I guess you just beam yourself home and right to bed. One person I worked with had an hour and a half ride each way because of snow. So he was home five hours and had to return to work. Why bother going home, it would be easier to sleep in the car.

    Not only does lack of sleep impact productivity, increase errors and impact health it also makes people cranky. I have never seen a job get easier because of a cranky cohort. When will employers wise up.

  9. GettinSleepNow*

    I got forced into a “swing” shift at a former job. This meant working 3 different shifts in a 7 day period. It was union so of course those of us who had less than 7 years were forced onto it. This was a quality control production job. I often went 24 hours without sleep. One time I went 48 hours and was hallucinating on the drive home at 3pm. I developed some digestive issues as well as feeling “foggy headed” most of the time.

    It was such a relief the day I quit. I took some time off and slept like I’d never slept before for a month. I wouldn’t wish that sleeping schedule on my worst enemy.

    I later heard most of the people in that department on that shift quit or moved to another department. I’m thankfully working at a job that actually treats me like a human being with regular work hours.

  10. Boo*

    Hmm, not sure about the “your title isn’t a magic wand, you should inspire people rather than expecting them to do what you say because of your title”…I mean, actually yes, surely my (hypothetical!) staff should do what I tell them to if I’m the boss? Obviously it’s great if you can inspire your team, but saying you have to earn their obeying your instructions doesn’t seem right at all. Maybe I’m reading it wrong and it’s more about inspiring staff to go the extra mile or something?

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