Is the “coronasomnia” epidemic affecting your customer experience? 

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 20% of adults had trouble sleeping last summer. Just ten months later, thanks to the pandemic, that number has climbed to 60%. In fact, so many people are suffering from chronic sleep issues that the CDC has declared it a public health epidemic. And it has a name: “coronasomnia.” 

What does this mean for your business? Well, for starters it means that your customers and employees are three times as likely to be experiencing the negative effects of lack of sleep, including irritability, inability to focus and lost productivity. Team members who aren’t getting enough sleep cost organizations an average of $2,280 a year (per sleep-deprived employee) in lost productivity, so the impact on your bottom line can be detrimental to your business.

And cranky customers can be difficult to deal with—so, more than ever, your frontline needs extra patience and support to stay focused at work and deliver on your high standards for customer experience.

How to spot sleep deprivation in your frontline employees

The skills most impacted by lack of sleep are things like comprehending and communicating in a fast-paced environment, producing creative solutions to problems, displaying self-awareness or self-confidence, assessing risk or multi-tasking and decision making. Your managers should be checking in regularly with their people, watching out for signs of chronic fatigue like forgetfulness, emotional outbursts or lack of productivity. This article has some good tips for recognizing common signs of sleep deprivation. It’s a good time to make sure you have a plan in place to coach employees on the impacts of poor quality sleep and strategies for getting a better night’s rest.

Fuzzy brains need extra help to keep what they’ve learned top of mind. 

Tips for supporting your sleepy frontline to keep things running smoothly

The other side of protecting your frontline employees’ well-being is to make sure they have the tools they need to succeed. For example, now might be a good time to provide your frontline people with some extra training on strategies for dealing with difficult customers

Small actions can make a big difference in de-escalating a situation with a problematic customer, like:

  • Staying professional, calm and patient
  • Summarizing what the customer has asked for
  • Asking questions to clarify any confusion instead of making assumptions

Employees might need some reinforcement of key concepts to make the learning stick if their brains are feeling fuzzy from their own lack of sleep. So it’s important to be patient with one another and give them the extra help they need while they’re working on these skills.

Insomnia isn’t the only issue to have on your radar

With changing safety protocols, operational updates and remote work transitions, even well-rested employees might be feeling the impact of burnout. 

Leading with empathy, opening the floor for better employee communication about mental health and other personal issues, and building mutual trust are three great ways to engage your employees that are losing steam. 

Are we forever doomed to walking around in a state of sleep deprivation? The experts don’t think so. But they do caution that stress “can lead to chronic insomnia and chronic insomnia can take on a life of its own.” So keep an eye on your frontline people and make work more human by leaving space to discuss issues like this and offer solutions. When you support your frontline people well, they’ll be more engaged and better equipped to handle anything a difficult customer throws their way. And you’ll reap the benefits of having a happier (and hopefully more rested) customer-facing workforce on your side.

Maliyah Bernard is an academic writer turned content writer. As a former frontline worker, she loves writing about all the ways organizations can support these essential workers smarter.

Let’s work together to drive frontline performance in all the right ways.