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Getting Paid to Sleep —Promoting Sufficient Sleep for Better Work Performance 

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Getting enough sleep? If not, you likely fall among the one in four Australians who regularly have a bad night’s sleep. Lack of shut-eye has far-reaching effects on your health, safety and overall wellbeing – not to mention your performance at work. As Australia’s sleep crisis increasingly comes out of the dark, employers across the country are waking up to the organisational cost of insufficient slumber.

Australia is on course to adopt a pioneering employee sleep payment program spearheaded by American health insurance company Aetna’s CEO, Mark Bertolini. The impetus behind Bertolini’s program is the direct link sufficient sleep has with enhanced employee presence, performance and decision-making in the workplace. Under the program, employees use Fitbit fitness trackers to monitor their sleep. Where they demonstrable sleep for seven hours or more on 20 nights in a row they get a financial bonus equivalent to A$33 per night, with potential to earn up around A$660 a year. Now that is making money with your eyes closed.

Bertolini may well be sparking an international reawakening over the impact fatigued employees have on business. Insufficient sleep is becoming so prevalent that it is being widely referred to as a public health epidemic. According to the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) 2013, between 20 to 35 per cent of Australians suffer from disrupted or inadequate sleep. Half of these are attributable to sleep disorders while the rest is down to good old-fashioned bad sleep habits.

What does this mean for Australian workplaces? It doesn’t make for sweet pillow talk that is for sure. Certainly, sleep is strongly linked to productivity and organisational profits. So where sleep is lacking so are these bottom line fundamentals. Yet the impact of fatigue extends even further to encompass:

  • Motor vehicle crashes — 100,000 vehicle crashes are caused by drowsy driving every year, some in company cars.
  • Workplace accidents — about 1.5 million Australians are shift workers in industries spanning transport, mining, aviation, healthcare and more. Fatigue and insufficient sleep can trigger workplace accidents and industrial disasters for which an employer organisation bears responsibility.

Australian Sleep Health Foundation Professor David Hillman sees very real value for Australian workplaces in adopting sleep programs like that championed by Bertolini at Aetna. Aussie employees who have regular poor sleep exist in a ‘sleep restricted state’ where impaired performance is inevitable. Optimal employee performance can only be achieved through optimal sleep. This should serve as a wake-up call for employers and offering the chance to make more money for enjoying more sleep may well be a dream solution.


Deloitte Access Economics 2011, Re-awakening Australia: The economic cost of sleep disorders in Australia.

Eyes wide shut: a lack of sleep. HRM Online. 5 May 2015

Public health implications of sleep loss: the community burden. The Medical Journal Australia (MJA), 2013; 199 (8): 7-10

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