Bosses having sleepless nights over the recession

Managers are getting far less than the recommended amount of sleep - thanks largely to the downturn.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

A survey by TNS has found that the average manager sleeps 19% less than the recommended eight hours a night. And that’s not all down to a heroic, ‘sleep when you’re dead’ dedication to getting the job done: 40% percent of respondents blamed their insomnia on the state of the global economy.

The survey of 2,500 managers in five countries, which was carried out in March on behalf of Dutch giant Royal Philips Electronics, found that British bosses were the third most likely to lose sleep through stress at work. 24% of Brits put it as the reason they wake up in the night (compared with 30% of American bosses, and 27% of Germans - the Dutch and the Japanese were less uptight). And the situation is hardly likely to improve as the distressing stats keep rolling in: ‘Well repossessions are up 50% this quarter, darling. Wake me up at nine would you? Goodnight.’
You may of course wonder whether losing a few hours’ kip a night really matters. After all, Maggie Thatcher famously got by on around four hours at a time. History’s other insomniacs include Leonardo Da Vinci and Winston Churchill, and their productivity was very likely improved by the fact that they spent half the night counting sheep (or inventing flying machines and battle formations for them). But the heavy-lidded bosses out there would probably disagree. Indeed, sixty-one per cent of the survey’s respondents said the lack of sleep affected their output – costing them around six days’ work a year, which (based on some no-doubt-largely-spurious back-of-a-fag-packet calculation) would mean the UK economy losing out to the tune of some £3.63bn.

In a separate survey by manufacturers’ body EEF, the recession was also blamed for a rise in long-term sickness, i.e. where employees had been off work for more than a month. 36% of companies surveyed said the problem had increased between 2007 and 2008, when the economy started to slow. The CBI reckons long-term sickness cost the economy £5.3bn in 2007. And while some academics fear that drug companies are exaggerating the dangers of less sleep, others suggest that it contributes directly to a range of health problems, from diabetes to high blood pressure to heart attacks.

Of course, this current drop in sleep isn’t all down to the recession. Some have argued we’ve been getting gradually less kip since Thomas Edison invented the light bulb (not such a bright idea, given he was an insomniac too). And these are fast-paced times – even when the economy is at its strongest, you have to get past the BlackBerry and the latest box-set of Lost before the electric blanket even gets a look-in. But if those stats on output are to be believed, it does look like bosses are going to have to explore new ways of getting extra sleep. If counting sheep doesn’t work, how about counting repossessed houses?

In today's bulletin:

Lloyds to raise £4bn as Blank checks out
Former Economist boss becomes CBI's first female president
Bosses having sleepless nights over the recession
Where has all the trust gone? A special MT/ILM survey
MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Marketing on a shoestring

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