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Running on Empty

December 17, 2013
Karla Thorpe

Leadership and Human Resources Research

Feeling a little tired and stressed out around the holidays? You’re not alone. Many Canadians are not getting the sleep they say they need. When asked to choose, two-thirds of Canadians would pick a good night’s sleep over a fun night out on the town. Even among 18 to 24 year olds, the majority (55 per cent) would choose to catch up on their sleep.

During a typical work week, more than a quarter of workers say they go into work feeling tired either every day (15 per cent) or most days (11 per cent).

And nearly half of people who don’t get enough rest say that this affects their work productivity or performance. This is not welcome news for employers.

The two single biggest contributors to Canadians’ lack of sleep are work stress or job demands (25 per cent) and home stress or life demands (24 per cent). Perhaps not surprisingly, demands at home are a more significant source of lack of sleep for women (31 per cent) than for men (17 per cent).

Certain segments of the population seem to be more well rested. As an example, men are twice as likely as women to report that they never go into work tired (28 per cent versus 14 per cent of women).

Workers with children are significantly more likely to say they go into work tired every day of the week (22 per cent). Very few individuals with children in the household (13 per cent) report that they never go into work feeling tired.

Lack of sleep and its impact on individuals’ productivity at work is an area that is just beginning to receive attention from Canadian employers. In the past year, only 20 per cent of individuals had received information from their employer about the importance of sleep or received resources to help them manage fatigue more effectively.

Employers in Alberta appear to be significantly further ahead in this regard. Four in ten workers in Alberta have received access to information or resources on managing fatigue.

According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, there are a number of good habits that Canadian can adopt to ensure they get the right amount of quality sleep.

Tips for a Better Night Sleep

  1. Stick to a set sleep schedule (even on weekends).
  2. Be careful about what you eat and drink before bed.
  3. Create a relaxing bedtime ritual—with calming activities and limited screen time before bed.
  4. Make sure your surroundings are comfortable.
  5. Limit daytime naps to no more than 10 to 30 minutes.
  6. Include physical activity in your daily routine (but not right before bed).
  7. Try to manage your stress level—if needed, create a “to do” list to worry about tomorrow.

Source: Mayo Clinic.

The Conference Board of Canada has further research under way exploring ways in which Canadian employers can assist workers in getting the proper rest they need to function safely and effectively at work.

The upcoming meeting of the Conference Board’s Council on Workplace Health and Wellness Council on Workplace Health and Wellness, taking place in Toronto on March 6–7, 2014, will focus on stress, burnout, and fatigue management. If your organization would like to attend this important session, please contact Louise Chénier at or by phone at 613-526-3090 ext. 305.

About the Poll

The Fatigue Management Survey was designed by Karla Thorpe, Director, Workplace Health and Wellness Research, at The Conference Board of Canada.

The survey was administered by Opinion Search to a nationally representative sample of 739 Canadians (aged 18 and over) employed on either a part-time or full-time basis. All surveys were conducted via telephone in English and French from October 24 to October 29, 2013. Calls were made using dual frame landline and mobile phone sampling. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.6 per cent in 19 out of 20 samples.


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