What's your problem? Lack of sleep

I'm a new father. My son's teething and I'm not performing my best at work. I don't know what to do.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 02 Apr 2012

I'm a new father and returned to work three weeks after my son was born. He's now four months old and because he's teething, I'm only getting three or four hours' sleep a night. I feel dreadful and anxious because I'm not able to do my best. I'm worried I'm going to get pulled up on it and I don't know what to do. Have you any advice?

A: The chances are the nagging fear that you're underperforming is now affecting your performance at least as much as the lack of sleep itself. You can't do much about the sleep but you can do something about the fear. If you wait until you're 'pulled up' before you reveal your entirely blameless circumstances, it will inevitably seem as if you're trying to hide behind excuses. You need to take the initiative.

So before it gets to that stage, you should have a thoughtful word with your line manager - or whoever is your direct report.

Explain about your son and his teething and your seriously disturbed sleep patterns - and your growing concern that all this might affect your work. Then give a considered account of what could be done to minimise any adverse effect your sleep deprivation might have.

You'll know better than I what these actions might be; but more flexible hours will certainly be one, allowing you to catch up on both sleep and work whenever it's possible rather than at standard times. Ask that you be judged on the delivery and standard of your work rather than on strict punctuality. And ask for understanding: there will almost certainly be moments when your concentration has very obviously flagged - and you want your manager to be prepared for this and to understand the reasons. As soon as you've had such a conversation, your anxiety should lessen.

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