Leadership behavior and support can improve sleep quantity and quality of the employees

October 29, 2020

Did you know that as a leader you can have a huge impact on employees’ sleep and thus their wellbeing? The impact is associated with both the sleep quantity and quality. How could you help your employees with your leadership and and the employees’ family-supportive behavior. This is what we know according to the recent research.

Leaders and their behavior at the workplace does have a significant impact on employees’ sleep quantity and quality. Given the importance of sleep for employees’ well-being, health, safety, and recovery it is of utmost importance  for organizations to recognize how the supervisors can improve employees’ sleep. Sleep also has an impact on team or company performance and ethical conduct at work. One way to build ethical and well-being culture is to focus on how you as a leader can help your employees to improve their sleep.

Excellent sleep leadership skills improve the sleep and recovery of the employees

Research was conducted with the full-time Army National Guard service members and with some civilians. Research objective was to test the sleep leadership and FSSB (Family-Supportive Supervisor Behavior) relationships between them. The novelty of the research is according to the researchers’ that this is the first study to report the relationship between sleep leadership and objectively measured sleep. 

What is sleep leadership? Gunia et al. conceptualized in their research in 2015 “sleep leadership as both path-goal clarifying behaviors (i.e., clarifying the means that employees can use to accomplish a given goal) and emotional support (i.e., showing concern for the quantity and quality of employees’ sleep). Examples of path-goal clarifying behaviors include educating employees about good sleep hygiene practices, and examples of supportive behaviors include asking employees whether they sleep well.” 

Research hypotheses were:

  1. Employees whose supervisors are better at sleep leadership experience better sleep hygiene, longer sleep quantity, and better sleep quality.

  2. Employees whose supervisors are better at FSSB (Family-Supportive Supervisor Behavior) report better sleep hygiene, longer sleep quantity, and better sleep quality.

  3. Sleep leadership will be more strongly related to employee sleep outcomes than FSSB (Family-Supportive Supervisor Behavior)

Key results from the research:

  1. Contradicting the research hypotheses, the higher employee ratings of FSSB lead to shorter objective sleep time. 

  2. The results showed that supervisor support and leadership sleep skills are an important resource at workplaces to improve employee sleep.

  3. Higher employees’ ratings of their supervisors’ sleep leadership behaviors lead to improved subjective sleep quality.

  4. Surprisingly, sleep leadership was not related to employees’ sleep hygiene behaviors. Sleep hygiene refers to behaviors and environmental factors that aim to promote sleep quantity and quality thus leading to better health.

Leaders should have training for sleep supporting behavior and leadership

 So what are the practical implications of the recent research? 

  1. Organizations can and should train supervisors in sleep leadership and family-supportive behaviors to improve employees’ sleep and recovery i.e. health.

  2. Employees and supervisors don’t rate the behavior similarly. Pay attention to how you measure their feelings and behaviors. Emooter as an objective and science-based measure can help you with this.

  3. One approach to improve employees’ sleep is to increase job resources and lower the job and family demands, such as supervisor support at work. You should aim to increase the job resources, but also to decrease or optimize the family demands at home. 

  4. It may be particularly interesting for organizations that both of these supportive supervisor behaviors are associated with lower levels of employees’ sleep-related impairment. This measure assessed employees’ day-to-day functioning such as trouble concentrating during the day and not getting things done due to sleepiness.

As a final note, you should focus on knowledge about sleep and its impact on (mental) health at all levels in your organization. Start with the supervisors and leaders and work your way through the organization.

You can find the research paper here.

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