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Suffering from presentee-ism

February 19, 2013 by Mark McGlothlen 

I read with interest a story in the Wall Street Journal last week that was titled “Go Ahead, Hit the Snooze Button.”

I love sleep. I love sleeping in even more. But I never use the snooze button. My wife, on the other hand, is just the opposite. I usually set my alarm to go off about 6:40 a.m. If I feel that I want to “sleep in” a little longer, I will just re-set my alarm for 6:45 or 6:50 before I go to bed. If I still do not want to get up, mostly because I am all snug in bed and do not want to face the morning cold, I will just lie there, hoping I do not fall back to sleep and then end up being late for work.

My wife is a snooze button abuser. I think that is something that she would admit, too. But she does things opposite of me. She sets her alarm earlier, knowing that she will be hitting that button several times before getting up. I must sleep like a log, because I rarely hear it and she gets up before I do.

Anyway, back to the article. The subtitle of the story was “Calculating the cost of workers who don’t get enough sleep.” I do not want to say that I fall into that category, but I am still one of those who don’t go to bed until midnight on most nights.

According to the article, the estimated cost to U.S. companies from workers with insomnia, who lose an average of 7.8 days of productivity a year, is $63.2 billion! In other words, this problem is caused by “presentee-ism,” which is people who show up for work but perform at below-average levels.

People waste 8.4 minutes online for every hour of interrupted sleep the previous night. I am pretty sure this has applied to me a time or two. The number of American workers who sleep less than six hours per night is 40.6 million, or 30 percent of the civilian work force. Guilty as charged!

Nine percent of Americans say that they are likely to fall asleep at an inappropriate moment, such as during a meeting. This has never happened to me. But I have witnessed this on several occasions, and not just in boring, lengthy staff meetings, either!

The article goes on to mention that those people who are exhausted from work and under tremendous pressure would rather learn about how to perform better on less sleep than how to get more. Interesting. I guess this is just a side effect from the “doing more with less” adage that many companies are adhering to these days. Yes, you can save money by slashing a 40-hour-a-week employee and giving those responsibilities to another person, but, aside from the bottom line, is it really a good idea?

I am not saying that companies do not have reason to trim the fat now and then, but when you have four employees and five managers, there is a problem. See the movie Office Space for a great example of this situation. Yes, once you start pushing too much onto a select few, the problems usually begin; morale and quality decrease, and then articles like this are written to explain the problem.

I don’t know. I was talking with a few co-workers the other day about getting older and how back in the day it was not uncommon for us “younger” folk to stay out until two or three in the morning, go to bed, and be at work by 8 a.m. The only reason that would happen these days is because of a restless or sick child, insomnia or some other odd instance.

But then again, there is always that snooze button …

**Stats used were provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Harvard scientists.

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