HR Management & Compliance

Employees Are Pulling All-Nighters for Work at Alarming Rates

Sleep deprivation is rampant in the United States and causes many health issues. Some experts, such as Sleephealth.org, state that 70% of the U.S. population gets an insufficient amount of sleep at least once a month. The effects of that lack of sleep are well studied and affect virtually every aspect of people’s waking lives, including their time at work.sleep

A recent study by cpap.com sought to understand what role work plays in sleep deprivation. The results are surprising. Nearly one-quarter (22%) of those surveyed said they had stayed up all night because of work.

Gender and employment level seem to play a big role in who stayed up and who didn’t. Among those who have pulled all-nighters for their job, 49% were men, and only 36% were women. High-level employees were most likely to stay up all night (54%), with mid-level (43%) and low-level (36%) employees doing so at decreasing rates

Reasons to Stay Up

The survey asked employees why they stayed up. The most common two reasons were to meet a deadline (52%) and to work multiple shifts (48%). Complete results can be seen in this table:

Meet a deadline 52%
Work multiple shifts 48%
Problem solve/strategize 26%
Cover for a coworker 19%
Finish a project early 17%

Did these employees catch up on some much-needed sleep the next day? Unfortunately for everyone, 62% of those who stayed up went to work the very next day.

Obligation

One goal of the survey was to understand if employees felt obligated to stay up all night. The majority of respondents (67%) said they chose to stay up all night, while 59% said they felt obligated to. The study didn’t determine how many of those extra hours were paid or not paid, but generally speaking, nighttime work does not require extra pay.

Consequences

Among those who pulled all-nighters, 83% said they were less focused the next day. Additionally, 81% said they were less alert, and 75% said they were less productive. So were the all-nighters worth it? Across the whole study, only 8% said that all-nighters were always worth it. Another 43% said they were never worth the work required.

Not sleeping has many consequences that are not directly related to the workplace. Survey takers were asked to mark what effects their sleepless night had on them:

Exhaustion the next day 79%
Inability to focus 64%
Moodiness 50%
Exhaustion for several days 49%
Decreased reaction time 49%
Forgetfulness 46%
Stress and anxiety 46%
Unhealthy food cravings 34%
Heightened emotions 30%
Intoxicated feeling 28%

While these effects are not directly work-related, they are clearly connected. Exhaustion for up to several days can lead to a lack of productivity and contribute to unsafe work. Speaking of safety, decreased reaction times, forgetfulness, and intoxicated feelings all could easily cause an increase in mistakes for those who have physical jobs, like warehouse, construction, or manufacturing workers.

Tensions can run high, especially if employees are feeling stressed, anxious, and moody and have heightened emotions.

Finally, sleep deprivation can lead to a host of health issues, which can result in sick days, doctor visits, and high healthcare costs.

Final Thoughts

It’s not up to employers to “fix” employees with sleep problems. After all, when people are off the clock, they have to make their own decisions. However, if you are in a position to reduce the number of work-related all-nighters, it might behoove you to find ways to discourage sleepless nights.

You can view the full study here.