Don’t Sleep on Being Tired at Work

by FEI Daily Staff

Being sleepy at work could be holding you back professionally. For employers, the consequences are potentially worse, as accounting mistakes could lead to missed deadlines, fines, audits and unhappy clients.


Did you know a lack of sleep costs U.S. companies $63 billion in lost productivity every year?

This finding reported in SLEEP, a publication of the Sleep Research Society, should wake up organizations thinking they’re immune to the effects of a tired workforce. So should this: In a Robert Half survey, 74 percent of U.S. workers reported they’re often tired at work. The majority also said they’d use a nap room if their employer offered it.

Working tired hinders performance, both for individuals and organizations. Survey respondents reported that when they’re tired at work, they:

  • Lack focus or are easily distracted
  • Procrastinate more
  • Are grumpy
  • Make more mistakes
Being sleepy at work could be holding you back professionally. For employers, the consequences are potentially worse, as accounting mistakes could lead to missed deadlines, fines, audits and unhappy clients.

Take the following examples professionals reported in the aforementioned survey:

  • Paid everyone twice
  • Made a $20,000 mistake on a purchase order
  • Missed a decimal point on an estimated payment and the client overpaid by $1 million
  • Ordered 500 more computers than were needed
  • Deleted a project that took 1,000 hours to put together
How to be less tired

Accounting and finance professionals are already putting in long, hard hours. According to the Benchmarking the Accounting & Finance Function 2016 report from Robert Half and Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), the research affiliate of Financial Executives International (FEI), managers are putting in an average of 43 hours per work. For many financial leaders, it’s likely more.

Professionals need to ensure they are taking care of themselves to avoid burning out and crashing.

  • Eat well. Oftentimes, people are tired at work because good nutrition and hydration aren’t priorities. To be in top form at the office, eat a good breakfast, drink sufficient fluids, take time out for lunch and have an energy-dense snack in the afternoon.
  • Get up and move. Your desk job may be harmful to your health, so make it a point to not be sedentary during the day.Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Every hour or so, take a quick stroll, even for a glass of water, to shake off the lethargy, and stand when possible during conference calls. Rather than sleeping at work, go outside and take a brisk walk around the block.
  • Use caffeine wisely. While some may help you stay alert, be sure to limit your intake in the late afternoon, or you may have trouble falling asleep at night.
How to help your staff be less tired at work

Managers can’t force their employees get enough shut-eye, but they can help in other ways:

  • Lead by example. Staff tend to follow their manager’s lead in many areas, including work tendencies. Use your vacation time, and take lunch breaks. As much as possible, avoid staying at the office too late.
  • Allow flexibility. If you have good employees who are always tired, it may be to your advantage to accommodate their needs. For example, you could let them work remotely to eliminate their long commute, giving them more time to rest.
  • Maximize the work environment. An overly warm or dark office can lead to sleeping at work – adjust the thermostat and lighting as necessary. Brainstorm other ways to help workers be healthier and less tired at work. Rather than donuts and fun-size candies, you could provide healthier snacks like granola bars, dried fruit or mixed nuts.
  • Limit evening emails. Is it common for employees to check and respond to messages after work? If so, this habit could be cutting into their rest time. Consider a policy that discourages or limits after-hours communication.
  • Hire more staff. One of the reasons your accountants may be tired is they’re overworked. To take some of the load off their shoulders, add interim or full-time staff as needed. As a staffing management best practice, plan ahead by reviewing workload fluctuations and upcoming needs in advance. This will help you avoid workforce gaps and productivity declines.
An occasional weary day is hard to avoid, but chronic tiredness in the office shouldn’t be. Take care of yourself, and, starting by setting the right example for them, encourage your employees to do the same. Extra energy in the office can lead to improved performance for you, your staff and your organization.


Tim Hird is the executive director of Robert Half Management Resources.