Expert advice urges employers to help curb workers’ screen time, following findings that every part of the UK has experienced disrupted sleep due to artificial light over the last year.
Workers are spending more time in front of multiple screens now than ever before due to an increase in conference calls, streaming and remote working – despite blue light exposure being linked to sleep disruption, poor focus, impaired decision-making and strained eyesight.
In fact, recent figures show that the average person picks up their phone 58 times a day – 48% of these outside of working hours. During the same time,the UK has seen a national 76% increase in screen time during the pandemic, which has had significant repercussions on sleep quality.
The WakeUpWell study, conducted by Blinds Direct, analysed light pollution levels, sun hours and mean temperatures in key locations to establish which parts of England experience the lowest quality of sleep, and advises Brits on how they can combat it.
According to expert advice employers should look to:
- Encourage regular screen breaks
- Implement clear work/life boundaries to avoid employee burnout
- Clearly communicate when employees are required to be ‘in-office’
- Prioritise regular schedules to monitor how much time is spent online
- According to experts, the onus is on employers to ensure employees limit this disruptive blue light exposure to improve sleep quality and prioritise a better work/life balance.
For David Lynch, Content Lead at Payette Forward, this encouragement can be as simple as recommending regular breaks and reiterating expectations around working hours.
“Employers should understand that humans are not robots. It's not realistic to expect your employees to stare at their computer screens for eight hours straight.
“Employers should encourage workers to take routine breaks for their health and well-being as employees will be more focused and productive.”
Katherine Hall, Sleep Psychologist, says that a strict work-from-home routine is crucial – particularly as Brits start returning to the office.
“If you have been routinely waking up slightly later since working from home, you may find waking up slightly earlier more difficult.
“With more and more people working from home during the pandemic, the line between ‘work’ and ‘home’ has become a lot blurrier. This may have led to excessive time spent in front of your phone, delaying sleep and impacting sleep quality.”
Meanwhile, Tom Winter, HR Recruitment Advisor, believes that scheduling and time tracking is essential to monitor how long employees are spending online, and identify those who may benefit from encouraged screen breaks.
“I think employers should help their workers set times and use time trackers so they can have a structured schedule. That way, employees can manage their screen time better, and even amp up their productivity because they will have specific hours of the day dedicated to working. It’ll also allow for easy intervention for workers at risk of burnout.”
The expert advice was provided as part of the WakeUpWell study, which found all parts of the UK were at risk of excessive artificial light exposure due to longer working hours, increased levels of light pollution, and elevated levels of device use.
Thomas Croft, HR Manager at Blinds Direct adds:
“The study has made it evident that it’s not easy to get a good night’s sleep regardless of where you live or what you do for a living, as all cities and regions are exposed to high levels of light pollution.
“With an imminent return to pre-pandemic life, and people returning to work after a long period of working from home, it’s crucial that we prioritise our sleep schedule and ensure our homes are conducive to a high quality of sleep. Whether it’s by investing in blackout blinds, or a new mattress; or limiting screen time.”