Why Your Corporate Health Management Strategy Should Include A Sleep Program

Monday morning, and although you’d like to imagine that your team spent the weekend getting the rest they needed to gear up for another demanding week, the opposite is likely true. The reality is that many employees spend their weekend catching up on family responsibilities and errands, leaving them deflated and weary before the week begins.

If your inventory of the Monday morning conference table summons up images of bleary-eyed employees pouring a third cup of coffee to stay awake, or blotting away the cold symptoms they’ve been unable to kick, it’s probably time to rethink your organizations’s health management strategies. And it’s probably time to include a sleep program.


Sleep as a public health crisis

National Institutes of Health information notes that there is too much at stake to ignore this important problem, including “a large patient population, high levels of under-diagnosis, and high public health toll.”

An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans are affected by the “serious and common” problems of chronic sleep loss and sleep disorders. This affects “morbidity, mortality, productivity, accidents and injuries, quality of life, family well-being, and health care utilization.”

Research validating the importance of sleep medicine compounds with each news cycle, and American Board of Medical Specialties researchers now recognize sleep medicine as a medical subspecialty, as noted by the National Institutes of Health.

The Sleep Research Society states that “good sleep is essential to good health.” Sleep health is a multidimensional concept, based in:

  • Sleep duration
  • Sleep continuity (how quickly you fall asleep, or get back to sleep after waking up)
  • Alertness/sleepiness
  • Satisfaction/quality of sleep

Simply put: when your employees enjoy these components, your company stands to benefit.


Don’t operate with an outdated wellness program

Even five years ago, organizations could offer uninspired health management strategies that packaged serviceable, but often mediocre, health care options. As the marketplace for top talent has tightened, employees have come to expect that employers include more comprehensive, forward-facing health management strategies to serve their own health needs and the needs of their families. More caring, innovative systems are required from an administrator perspective managing health strategies.

Patients have also become more informed over the past five to seven years; it’s quite common for employees to be self-taught experts on their health care and health care decisions, working closely with not only a primary care doctor but a slew of experts and specialists to keep their health in top form. In many cases, health-conscious families and patients will additionally invest in out-of-pocket alternative health or complementary health specialists to supplement their traditional care. The more information, and the more options, the better.

With that in mind, your most desirable employees come to the table with high standards for health management as a top priority. Health-related headlines commonly crown newspaper pages, and health stories are among the most viewed in respected online news forums. Quality health care is simply not going away, and competitor organizations are vying with you to capture the most desirable employee talent with more sophisticated and comprehensive health care management strategies.


Benefitting from a sleep program

When employees feel engaged and rewarded, they are more productive and more present when working. More comprehensive health care management strategies mean that your employees are healthier. That means they’re calling in sick less frequently, and recovering from illness more rapidly.

Preventative medicine can help catch small health problems before they become large problems so that patients don’t require costly and time-consuming recovery periods, dragging down productivity and morale in the workplace.

When your top performers are glowing with good health, this changes the conversations in the workplace for an administrator. Key players are focused, attentive, efficient, and motivated. This translates to numerous payoffs including a smoother system workflow, higher employee retention, and increased efficiencies in production and product. Not a bad deal all around for caring employers managing high numbers of workers.

Fortune recently reported that business outcomes for organizations offering comprehensive health management strategies (including sleep programming) include “lower absenteeism, higher job satisfaction and work productivity, higher employee retention, and lower health care costs.”

Pinpointing exact financial savings can be tough, as Fortune notes, but some researchers have identified “25 percent lower sick leave, health plan, worker’s compensation, and disability insurance costs” for companies who include wellness programs.

Corporate Wellness magazine notes that researchers demonstrate “a strong link between employee engagement, well-being, and the likelihood of someone seeking out a new job.” Employee turnover can mean that employees aren’t enrolled in a health plan long enough to “demonstrate a change in utilization or health risks.”

This makes it a good program to retain Millennial populations, who rank sleep among their most important wellness activities, according to Corporate Wellness, among other activities like spending time with family and friends.

Overall, Corporate Wellness recommends that administers move away from “a traditional ROI model (based on health plan cost savings) to a VOH – or value on health – model that incorporates such metrics as productivity, retention, employee engagement, job satisfaction” and other results that impact your bottom line.

National Institutes of Health researchers note that most people with sleep disorders remain “undiagnosed and thus untreated.” In fact, “up to 90 percent of individuals with sleep-disordered breathing have not been diagnosed.” Examples of disorders that often go undetected include narcolepsy and insomnia.

Sleep disorders can be present when there are other issues present, the NIH notes. For example, Restless Legs Syndrome can occur with issues related to “iron deficiency, renal failure, and pregnancy.” Hypersomnia can occur alongside “Parkinson’s disease, depression,” and “various neurological conditions.” Insomnia and depression are often linked.


Successful corporate wellness programs

Fortune recently reported that “health, happiness, and productivity” all directly relate to the workplace, and can be successfully encompassed in a corporate wellness program.

The difference can come down to quality. Many organizations and administrators offer some kind of health management strategy, but not everyone offers comprehensive systems. Fortune reported that employees in comprehensive programs tend to have better health outcomes.

Examples of those outcomes includes “smoking cessation, weight loss and obesity prevention, diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol management, and personal health and safety practices like seat belt use, sleep hygiene, and stress management.”  

Fortune notes that attributes of successful health management strategies include:

  • Practical, accessible programs
  • Health-conscious work environments
  • Wellness integration with company structure
  • Wellness linked to existing workplace support programs
  • Health screenings and education

The National Institutes of Health further recommends programming based in:

  • Strong links between diagnostic testing centers to comprehensive care
  • Community resources
  • Self-management support

The Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology reports that “more than 70% of employees surveyed said that incentives would boost their interest in participating in a free worksite wellness program.”


Short term benefits of sleep programs

Sure, sleep health had its skeptics when the prosaic nightly ritual returned to the mainstage among top health professionals and researches. Touted as the newest breakthrough in good health, the so-called fad hasn’t gone away. In fact, researchers continue to accumulate evidence, elevating sleep to a top predictor of good health in the short term and long run.

In the short term, sleep helps people feel focused and energized, better able to concentrate on the tasks and information at hand and creatively problem solve while working. Rested employees feel good about themselves, have fewer problems at home that can drip into the office culture, and they have stronger interpersonal relationships in the workplace, with colleagues, administers and clients.

Daytime sleepiness, the “foremost symptom of sleep loss and most sleep disorders,” affects “performance and cognition,” according to the National Institutes of Health. The NIH also notes that “the annual direct and indirect costs of sleep problems reach well beyond $100 billion.”

Workplace safety also improves when your health management strategy includes a sleep program. After a good night’s sleep, employees are less likely to encounter accidents because they are more alert and aware while working.


Direct Financial Benefits of Wellness Programs

The Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology reports that there are four reasons why corporate wellness programs have financial advantages. These include:

  • Lower medical costs. “Medical costs tend to be higher for employees with multiple health risks compared to healthier employees, but they fall an estimated $3.27 for every dollar spend on wellness program.”
  • Increased employee morale. “Wellness interventions can signal to employees that their organization cares about their health and well-being, resulting in increased job satisfaction and increased morale among employees.”
  • Decreased absenteeism. “Participation in organizational wellness programs is associated with decreased absenteeism, which translates to a decrease of $2.73 for every dollar spent on wellness programming. This savings is substantial considering the annual cost of workforce absences in the U.S. due to illness is an estimated $74 billion.”
  • Decreased presenteeism. “Productivity loss attributable to presenteeism was over 2.5 times as costly as medical and pharmaceutical expenses combined.”
Actively engaging employees through a comprehensive sleep program, we can identify and appropriately treat people maybe 5 to 10 years earlier than we traditionally would have been able to in our sleep testing facilities. Most importantly, research indicates that you could achieve as much as 50% reduction in co-morbid medical costs if you get these people diagnosed earlier and manage them with the proper therapy and treatment plan.
— Sleep Review, the journal for sleep specialists


Long term benefits of sleep program health

Sleep deprivation, sleep debt, and undiagnosed sleep issues, such as sleep apnea, all have terrible long-term effects on your employees’ health. Individuals with undiagnosed – and hence untreated – sleep issues tend to have higher correlations of a host of health issues, including Type II Diabetes, obesity, and many types of cancer.

National Institutes of Health researchers note that sleep loss and sleep-disordered breathing are “associated with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.”

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention notes that 11% of individuals diagnosed with diabetes have sleep challenges; nearly 23% of individuals with depression report short sleep duration. The CDC also reports that over 28% of those suffering from arthritis also report sleep problems; among patients with cancer, 10% report sleep issues. Sixteen percent of people with asthma report sleep troubles. And over 13% of those who have suffered a stroke or heart attack, or suffer from coronary heart disease, report sleep problems.

Aside from the tragedy in physical pain or discomfort, and loss of human life, the additional burden is based in preventability. Simple measures to diagnose and prevent and treat disease in its earliest stages among vulnerable populations increases the likelihood of recovery. This reduces health care costs for employees and for you – and allows your employees to live longer, healthier, and more satisfying lives. You only stand to benefit from a more caring corporate culture

National Institutes of Health information notes that sleep disorders are “chronic conditions with complex treatments.” Frequently co-morbid with other conditions, such as “cardiovascular disease, depression, and diabetes.”

Proper treatment requires sufficient time for “fine-tuning, extended follow-up, and lifestyle changes.” As the NIH notes, “sleep disorders cannot be adequately treated in a single visit.”


Sleep programs within a health management strategy

We know that as an administrator, your hands are already full managing a successful organization and meeting the needs of your clients. Fortunately, adding a sleep program to your health management strategy can be simple and turnkey.

Allow our researchers and experts to integrate seamlessly with your existing health management strategies, on-boarding our research-based, highly respected protocols and processes so that your employees have easy, immediate access with rapid results.

Our programs meet people where they’re at. Your solid sleepers will receive strategies and science-based tools for fine-tuning their sleep habits with fun, interesting challenges for even deeper rest. Employees with occasional insomnia or poor sleep habits will receive regular, manageable updates in order to revamp their sleep life into something more consistent, more relaxing, and more healthful. And employees with high risk of potential sleep disorders, or sleep challenges that can lead to much more serious health issues, can be readily identified with our science-based assessment so that they receive the care they need.

Fortune cites research finding that triage approaches can be quite effective in the workplace. All employees receive screening results, but those high-risk employees with potential health complications receive additional information on counseling or medical interventions should they opt for next steps.

These mechanisms will be invisible at the surface level, however. Because our protocols and challenges feed directly and independently to users, they are able to access the care and supervision they need without intrusive or inconvenient group protocols. Tools, incentives, and action steps are funneled directly to their favorite electronic device, readily accessible in real-time, wherever they are.

Fortune notes that the aggregate wellness data that companies receive can help them develop more targeted health programming decisions for their populations, increasing efficiencies and creating a more impactful ROI. We couldn’t agree more.

Wellness offerings through employers can be linked with the overall healthcare reform shift toward proactive disease prevention, instead of sitting back and waiting to diagnose and treat advanced or chronic illness. In this regard, sleep wellness is a way sleep medicine can begin to make the leap to an outcome-based healthcare reimbursement model ahead of slower-moving reimbursement changes to traditional fee-for-service that is constantly under pricing pressure.
— Sleep Review, the journal for sleep specialists


Moving forward with a quality sleep program

You’re in business for a reason. As an administer, you care about your products and services, and you believe in your organization’s mission and vision. However strong the game plan, though, that mission rests on the vulnerability of human health populations.

When you invest in your employees’ health, you do your organization the tremendous honor of staying in the game. Your employees function best when they’re well-rested. They are sick less often and recover more quickly, they require less medical care, they are more energetic and creative, they are better problem solvers – and they are happier and more able to sustain positive, meaningful relationships.

Sleep comes first, there’s no doubt about it. Whether you take a financial, organizational, or philosophical viewpoint, the payoff is the same: your company benefits.