The Critical Role of Sleep and Stress in Workplace Safety

Stress and insufficient sleep are major causes of unsafe workplace behaviors, accidents, and injuries. A lack of sleep reduces an employee’s ability to focus, think ahead, problem solve effectively and increases reaction time. 

How does financial stress lead to sleep deprivation and workplace outcomes? It turns out that money is the root cause of stress for most people. This stress starts a vicious cycle: Financial problems create stress, stress leads to less sleep, less sleep leads to poor decision making in the workplace and with finances, which leads to more stress, and the cycle repeats itself.

How can employers help their employees sleep better and be more productive? By providing financial care.

Let’s break this down in more detail.


Stress-induced sleepiness harms employees and their organizations.

The risks associated with stress and sleepiness are dangerous and costly.  Sleep deprivation increases the likelihood of a workplace accident by 70%, with the effects of fatigue often compared to the effects of alcohol, resulting in impaired judgment and poor performance. In healthcare, sleep deprivation is a latent hazard and “an unsafe condition”, leading to increased medical error rates. In transport, a study reported by the National Transportation Safety Board estimated that  truck driver fatigue is a contributing factor in 30 to 40 percent of all heavy truck accidents.

Improper safety enforcement and major injury, impaired motor skills, poor decision making and risk taking, poor memory and information processing and falling asleep on the job were identified as the five major dangers for tired workers by the American Safety Council.


Finances are the main cause of stress.

Finances are the top source of stress and anxiety for Americans, with nearly two-thirds of people experiencing anxiety about finances, even prior to the pandemic. Seventy-three percent of Americans rank finances as their top stressor. Stress and anxiety impact concentration and focus during work hours and also interfere with sleep, complicating matters by further degrading health and resilience. People with financial anxiety are the worst sleepers

“The average functional level of any sleep-deprived individual is comparable to the 9thth percentile of non-sleep deprived individuals.” —Circadian

However, when stress is reduced, people get better quality sleep, and when rested, are better able to handle stress, creating a virtuous cycle.

Remediating foundational causes of stress and sleep loss are critical to improving productivity, safety and customer satisfaction. 


How financial care can reduce stress and sleep deprivation

We’ve seen time and time again how lowering stress can create more engaged and productive employees. Financial care alleviates this stress at its root source. However, financial care is not a one-size-fits-all solution. That’s because personal finances are, well, personal.

To properly address financial stress, employees need a holistic approach. They need a human to first understand their problems and then use human compassion to help make the best decisions. Financial Assistants establish trust with every person, assessing their unique situation and the goals they’re trying to achieve.  They pair their expertise with behavioral science and technology to get to work on personalized solutions. By doing the legwork for employees to address both immediate financial needs and long term needs, this Financial Care model improves underlying financial health and the associated stress quickly. For example, at one employer the number of employees with a subprime credit score was reduced by 42% within 8 months of launching. 

When Sadie came to Brightside, she told her Financial Assistant “I’m just so tired”, which  is a familiar story to us when employees come to Brightside. Sadie worked in a distribution center and couldn’t afford to fix her car, which she needed to get to work. Life circumstances had left her with a maze of debts and she was overwhelmed. Her Financial Assistant helped Sadie get a low-cost loan paid out of her payroll to fix her car and pay off her high-interest debt. In parallel, her Financial Assistant helped her create a budget and a debt paydown plan. Sadie is now able to get to work without stress and told her Financial Assistant “I couldn’t have done it without you. You helped me every step of the way.” 

Brightside’s mission is to improve the financial health of working families. By improving the financial health of your employees, we are able to improve business outcomes, so it’s a win-win for your organization and your employees. 

-Lucy English PhD, Brightside Head of Measurement