symptoms of excessive sleepiness
or insomnia. According to the NSF,
around 10 percent of night and rotating
shift workers are believed to have shift
work disorder, which several studies
have linked to higher risks of heart
disease, digestive disorders and other
Such figures aren’t lost on
employers, some of whom are doing
something about it.
“Americans are tired,” says
Stephanie Pronk, a Minneapolis-based
senior vice president and leader of Aon
Hewitt’s national health-transformation
team. “And I think companies are
recognizing that there might be
something they can do in terms of
building awareness around proper
sleep, and encouraging employees to
adopt better sleep behaviors.”
LuAnne Heinen, a vice president
at the Washington-based National
Business Group on Health, adds:
“Companies are seeing the connection
that sleep has to the things they care
about—employees’ physical health,
mood and behavior, as well as the
safety and judgment that employees
display on the job.”
In addition to relying on the
growing body of research that shows
the negative effects of sleep deprivation
on the workforce, employers have
become much more attuned to
“helping employees in the areas where
they want to be helped,” says Heinen.
“Sleep, or a lack thereof, is
something that’s really challenging
for a lot of employees,” she continues.
“The exciting part of what companies
are doing is that they’re asking their
people, ‘What is your sleep problem?
Is it that you can’t fall asleep? Is it
that you can’t stay asleep?’ There are
much more sophisticated approaches
to understand how to resolve sleep
An Emphasis on Sleep
In March, more than 300 LinkedIn
Corp. employees gathered in New
York in search of answers to their
sleep issues at the online professional
network operator’s first LinkedIn
“Quest for Rest” Sleep Fair.
The event was borne out of the HR
function’s desire to make proper sleep
a focus of its wellness efforts, says
Michael Susi, senior global wellness
director at the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based
“The HR team and I sat down
together to establish our employee
wellness goals for 2017. And our
objective was to focus on an aspect [of
employee health] that was universal,”
says Susi, adding that a series of
internal wellness surveys indicated
that sleep behavior was an ongoing
concern for large numbers of LinkedIn
For the New York sleep fair,
LinkedIn invited a number of wellness
companies and experts to educate
employees on sleep health and, in
some cases, show ways to improve
sleep quality. One presenter, for
example, displayed techniques for
making a bed in a way that enables
the most comfortable sleep to occur,
and handed out analog alarm clocks
(choosing analog clocks to encourage
employees to take a break from
technology). Another demonstrated
proper sleep positions and breathing
Attendees were also able to
familiarize themselves with sleep-
related products and services from
about 20 vendors who made the trip to
the New York office—either in person
or virtually—to take part in the event.
Upon their arrival, employees received
goody bags chock full of sleep-related
books, discount offers from the
participating vendors, nasal devices,
probiotics and other items designed to
aid sleep health.
Through its first sleep fair—the
company has since held a similar
event for employees in Dublin,
Ireland—LinkedIn wanted to “bring
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