Written by Isabelle on June 3, 2021

Our new research into hybrid work and fatigue – 55% of flexible workers find it hard to disconnect

Bad flexible work habits during the COVID-19 pandemic have created an outbreak of poor quality sleep and fatigue among Australian office workers, our new study of 1,000 Australian white-collar workers has found. The majority of office workers reported their sleep quality had suffered in the past year, with increased fatigue and an inability to separate work and home life causing major issues with productivity, particularly for women and under 25s.

You may have seen our new research referred to in the recent Australian Financial Review article 'One in five women get less than six hours sleep a night' – but it goes much further than that. We'll be detailing our findings specific to young people, women, alcohol and caffeine in future posts.

Find out how the Eclipse Subscription Service could help your business.

ISS CEO Dr Adam Fletcher says the research shows business leaders needed to take sleep more seriously.

“Sleep issues and fatigue can have a severe impact on employee health and wellbeing, contributing to burnout and even mental health challenges,” he says.

“Unfortunately, not enough business leaders are taking responsibility for creating a healthy sleep culture with their teams. By supporting flexible work, businesses are essentially setting up an office in their employees’ homes, so its critical they put the training and processes in place to create healthy work-life balance.”

“Fatigue in the workplace is a shared risk ­– both to safety and performance – so it's also a shared responsibility amongst management and their teams to create conditions that support healthy sleep, improve productivity and minimise fatigue.”

The Integrated Safety Support study of Australian white-collar workers revealed

  • Almost half (48%) said that their sleep quality had declined in the last 12 months
  • More than three in five (63%) reported increased fatigue since returning to the office
  • Almost a third (31%) reported getting below or far below average sleep quality
  • 55% of flexible workers said they find it hard to disconnect from work while at home

The challenge of separating work and home life for flexible workers was stark, with more than one in three checking emails right before bed (38%), working in their pyjamas (35%) and even working from their bed (31%). The bad habits didn’t end there either, with more than two in five working all day at home without going out for fresh air (45%) or skipping lunch or other meals while working (41%).

“Working in your pyjamas or from the comfort of your bed might seem harmless, but they’re some of the most common actions that blur the boundaries between work and home life for flexible workers,” Dr Fletcher says.

“Instead, we recommend our clients maintain healthy morning and bedtime routines, like manufacturing a commute by taking a morning walk while listening to a podcast, or packing up your desk and putting your mug away at the end of the day, to signal the end of work.”

“One positive work from home behaviour our research identified was that almost one in three (31%) said they had taken a nap during the workday. A 10 to 15-minute nap is a great way to re-energise during work time, delivering measurable benefits, including improved short-term memory, better performance, improved alertness and faster reaction times.”

Education the key to sleep empowerment

“We’ve found progressive leaders are quick to recognise the link between high-performance teams and a healthy sleep culture – and that culture starts with education and empowerment,” Dr Fletcher says.

Based on decades of applied research and practical training across a range of industries, businesses and government agencies, Integrated Safety Support has channelled that knowledge into online training courses and smartphone applications that are simple to deploy and integrate into the modern workplace.

What we know is that engaging and easily applicable tools are more vital than ever. We created the Eclipse Subscription Service because we know that fatigue can be a daunting problem to tackle, especially for office workforces that haven’t had to address it before. We created it to ease the stresses of the modern workplace, to make hybrid work easier to balance and to address inequalities in wellbeing by empowering through knowledge.

Blog post written by Isabelle

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