Exhausted Employees Cost American Companies Millions Each Year

U.S. employers of all sizes are hurt by employees' sleep deficiency, reveals a new research tool from the National Safety Council and Brigham Health Sleep Matters Initiative.

A U.S. employer with 1,000 workers stands to lose about $1.4 million each year in absenteeism, diminished productivity, and healthcare costs because of exhausted employees, many of whom have undiagnosed and untreated sleep disorders, according to new research from the National Safety Council and the Brigham Health Sleep Matters Initiative. The costs of fatigue in an average-sized Fortune 500 company climbs to about $80 million annually.

employee fatigue
Sleep disorders and sleep deficiency are hidden workplace issues that affect employers across America. (Credit: Medioimages/Photodisc)

The research and calculations are captured in the Fatigue Cost Calculator for Employers, an online tool that provides companies with a snapshot of not only their losses, but also their return on investment if they implement employee sleep health education programs that screen for untreated sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia.

“This research reinforces that sleepless nights hurt everyone,” said Deborah A.P Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Many of us have been conditioned to just power through our fatigue, but worker health and safety on the job are compromised when we don’t get the sleep we need. The calculator demonstrates that doing nothing to address fatigue costs employers a lot more than they think.”

“Sleep, along with nutrition and exercise, is one of three pillars of good health,” stated Charles A. Czeisler, PhD, MD, FRCP, director of the Sleep Matters Initiative at Brigham Health, and the Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Promotion of healthy sleep is a win-win for both employers and employees, enhancing quality of life and longevity for workers while improving productivity and reducing healthcare costs for employers.”

According to an NSC probability-based survey, 43 percent of Americans obtain insufficient sleep, jeopardizing safety, impairing their ability to think clearly, make informed decisions and be productive. The survey also found 76 percent of Americans say they feel tired at work — in step with research showing that most workers routinely get less sleep than they need.

Other findings revealed by the Fatigue Cost Calculator include:

  • A national transportation company with 1,000 employees likely loses more than $600,000 annually in decreased productivity because of tired employees. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of workplace deaths, underscoring the need for alert, attentive employees.
  • More than 250 employees at a 1,000-worker national construction company likely have sleep disorders, which increase the risk of being injured or killed on the job. The construction industry has the highest number of on-the-job deaths each year.
  • A single employee with obstructive sleep apnea can cost an employer more than $3,000 in excess healthcare costs each year.
  • An employee with untreated insomnia is present but not productive for more than 10 full days of work annually, and accounts for at least $2,000 in excess healthcare costs each year.
  • An average Fortune 500 company could save nearly $40 million annually if half of its workforce were engaged in a sleep health program.

To learn more about fatigue , visit nsc.org/fatigue.