Insurance company pays its employees to sleep

Insurance giant Aetna thinks sleep is valuable. Literally. Their workplace wellness program includes an unusual perk — employees who sleep at least 7 hours a night actually get paid for doing it. If Aetna workers can prove they have logged 7 or more hours of sleep for at least 20 days in a row, they can earn bonuses up to $300.

This may seem surprising since traditionally, business has undervalued sleep. Donald Trump’s attitude is a good example. At a November campaign appearance in Springfield, he bragged, “I’m not a big sleeper. I like three hours, four hours, I toss, I turn, I beep-de-beep, I want to find out what’s going on.” In his 2004 book, Think Like a Billionaire, he advised people to skimp on sleep: “No matter how brilliant you are, there’s just not enough time in the day.”

Aetna’s program suggests that prevailing opinion may be changing. Their CEO, Mark Bertolini, expressed a very different perspective on CNBC’s Squawk Box: “You get things done quicker if people are present and prepared. You can’t be prepared if you’re half asleep.”

The founder of news website The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, agrees with Bertolini. She appeared alongside Bertolini and said, “We hear employees being congratulated for working 24/7, which now we know is the cognitive equivalent of coming to work drunk. But it’s changing. We are now in this amazing transition period where more and more companies are beginning to realize that living like that and working like that has actually terrible consequences — not just on the health and productivity of their employees but also on their bottom line.”

Research is mounting to suggest that sleep deprivation could have negative effects at work.

  • Safety could be jeopardized, since vigilance and dexterity are both impaired.
  • Job satisfaction/employee engagement ratings could be skewed lower.
  • The risk of unethical behavior in the workplace could rise, since sleep deprivation impairs moral judgment.
  • Innovation – the ability to see creative solutions that others cannot – could be squelched.

Since initiating its wellness program, Bertolini reported to CNBC that worker productivity had risen 69 minutes per month.