About 25-30% of U.S. citizens report insufficient sleep, which is associated with workplace errors, crashes, disease, and even early mortality.
With co-authors from the Work, Family, and Health Network, I recently published our findings in the journal Sleep Health. In short, we found that a workplace program to reduce work-family conflict resulted in increased employee sleep a full year after the study started. This was measured with “sleep watches” that determine sleep periods through wrist movements.
So first, lets talk about freedom.
As an applied scientist, it doesn’t really matter whether I am in my office by 8:30 or 9:30 a.m., or if I work from home, as long as I ultimately publish quality research.
If a truck driver needs a follow-up health screening at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday, or 11 a.m. on a Saturday, then I do it. It’s not about the time of day or hours I put in, but about what I get done.
“Sleep watches” determine sleep periods through wrist movements.
In our study, employees at an information technology firm participated in a three-month training process that used discussion, games, and other activities to transition from a focus on face time, to a focus on work results. In other words, people were given the freedom to work when and where they wanted as long as their work got done.
Supervisor support also counts.
Leslie Hammer, a co-author at Portland State University, has identified key family supportive supervisory behaviors that reduce work-family conflict, which is when work demands harm our personal and family lives.In our study, supervisors completed training on this topic using technology and behavior change expertise from OHSU.
This included computer-based training software developed by Drs. Kent Anger and Diane Rohlman, and a behavioral self-monitoring iPhone/iPod Touch App that I designed with Dr. Brad Wipfli.
What’s remarkable in this project is that we did not directly target sleep. Yet, it turns out that if you give people freedom to work in a way that works for them, and train leaders support life outside of work, sleep improves!
Ryan Olson, PhD, is a Scientist at the Oregon Institute Of Occupational Health Sciences.
Funding for the Work, Family, & Health Network is provided by supporting partners through a cooperative agreement with the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.