HR experts say that the trend we’ll be seeing in 2023 is something you might not expect: encouragement from your employer to get more rest. The most forward-thinking companies will help their workforce get “proactive rest,” down time that allows an employee to nap, get more sleep, or really shut down from business to refresh and reset themselves.
Employers have been getting creative and more generous with Paid Time Off (PTO) and scheduling for years, of course. But the pandemic made clear the real cost of stress and not getting enough self-care. The American Psychological Association has been keeping tabs on how the nation is dealing with stress since the pandemic. It has found that the average level of stress among American adults has risen significantly compared with 2019.
Getting enough sleep has always been part of well-being, but employees are increasingly sleep-deprived. According to an online article from Entrepreneur.com, “A survey on sleep and the U.S. workplace from CareerBuilder reported that 58 percent of 32,000 workers surveyed said they weren’t getting enough sleep, and 61 percent said that sleep deprivation affected their work. For some, it’s a vicious cycle: 44 percent of workers said that just thinking about work kept them up at night.
Studies have shown that job stress is estimated to cost American companies more than $300 billion a year in health costs, absenteeism, and poor performance. That makes helping employees cope more than a matter of doing the right thing; it’s critical to a company’s success.
Jennifer Liu, reporting for CNBC online, says “Instead of just throwing some vacation days on the table, proactive rest in practice looks like companies experimenting with allowing call center agents to schedule their own breaks, protecting meeting-free days, or shutting down operations for a weeklong company-wide holiday.”
Some companies are making sure the culture of proactive rest is established from Day One – or before. Liu writes, “Other [companies] are setting the tone with new hires immediately, like at SevenRooms, a tech hospitality company, which gives new hires two weeks of paid time off (and health insurance coverage) before they start their first day.”
Proactive rest is part of the concept behind the 4-day workweek and the unlimited PTO movements, although employees are not great at resting – or taking time off. On average, Americans had 9.5 unused vacation days left at the end of 2021, according to a January 2022 study of 1,021 U.S. adults by software company Qualtrics.
Leadership teams must not only offer the ability to rest and take care of themselves; they should also demonstrate its effects themselves. Brent Cassell, VP of the HR group at Gartner, says what elite athletes have always known: “Rest is not the absence of performance. It’s part of performance.” Managers who brag about marathon working sessions, all-nighters, and trading sleep for billable hours are probably setting the wrong tone – and setting themselves up for burnout.
Burnout is expensive. Good employees start to falter and call in sick more. Great employees consider leaving their jobs – or leaving the industry altogether. And burnout is at an all-time high, according to Gallup, and it’s officially considered an occupational hazard per the World Health Organization. Liu reports that “93% HR leaders said they were more concerned about employee burnout than before.”
So get some rest. Real rest. Take the advice of author Alan Cohen, who sad ““There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”
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