A US insurance company encourages staff to measure their sleep, for instance by using wearable electronic devices, and rewards those who make an effort to get a good night’s rest. The reason is that sleep has proved to be a genuine aid to workplace performance.

Digital technology fostering productivity... through sleep

The indefatigable Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, has for some time been riding a perhaps unexpected hobby horse: sleep. A victim of burn-out in 2007, she claimed in a TED presentation three years later that “by getting enough sleep, we can live a more productive, more inspired, and simply more joyful life”. Arianna Huffington has absolutely no doubt: everyone at the company – the employers and the employees – should regard sleep as a means of improving performance.

According to the United States National Sleep Foundation, an adult aged 26 to 64 ought to be sleeping for 7 to 9 hours per day. Nowadays however, over a quarter of the US population report that occasionally they do not get enough sleep.

The omnipresence of connected devices with screens in our daily lives does nothing to help improve the quality of our sleep. Nevertheless, such devices can play a crucial role in monitoring whether or not we are getting a sufficient amount of sleep. Accordingly, the US insurance giant Aetna has set out to reward employees who take care to get enough sleep. The company is offering $25 per month to staff who volunteer to record their sleep patterns using a wearable device and are able to show that they have slept at least 7 hours a night for twenty consecutive days. Aetna has also set up a Tumblr account for its staff, with informative videos and tips uploaded to help them get a good night’s sleep. And even the most ‘old school’ employees can sleep soundly: if they wish, they are allowed to record the number of hours they have slept on a paper form.

By Pauline Canteneur