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Research project is (co)funded by the Slovenian Research Agency and by Ministry of Finance.


Member of University of Ljubljana

School of Economics and Business




The limits of agile work: Exploring the effects of agility on sleep and innovativeness


1.10.2022 - 30.9.2025

Range on year

2187 research hours


Matej Černe

Research activity

Social sciences/Economics

Research Organisation

University Medical Centre Ljubljana

Institute for Economic Research, Ljubljana


Length, quality and consistency of sleep represent crucial factors in human energy restoration and subsequently a key predisposition to normal functioning for individuals at work, and away from it. Despite research from fields related to medicine neuroscience, psychology, health and physiology, to name just a few, sleep problems remain highly prevalent in modern society. This is particularly worrying as individuals sleep and work approximately ⅔ of our lives, and sleep has important implications for workplace performance, collaboration and general well-being. The ‘24/7-on’ society where constant connectedness to work and technology are blurring the lines between work and free time has made these issues even more highlighted. Our lives, and thus sleep patterns, are ‘now more complicated than they were’, leaving people disrupted and disorientated, with crucial effects on how individuals behave at work.

Across the execution of its four work packages, the project will contribute to bridging the fields of management and organization and medicine. The ambition of the project resides in its highly multi-disciplinary approach that leverages insights from management and organization scholarship in combination with medicine and healthcare, specifically polysomnography and sleep studies, to address the potentially reciprocal loop of work occurrences and sleep quality. This will contribute theoretically and empirically by enhancing our understanding of the true nature of the causality behind the work-sleep relationship. Practically, this will allowing managers and organizations to design creative, agile and innovative work and organizational context in a way that improves the potential for high-quality sleep of individuals with different sleep patterns and profiles, maximizing their well-being on one hand, and work-related outcomes on the other.



The phases of the project and their realization

The basic objective of this project is to rigorously examine how occurrences at work affect sleep, and vice versa. Our research will tackle this objective by using objective measures for sleep (via clinically-validated devices) in a natural sleep environment, combining them with daily experience-sampling-based perceptions and participants’ experiences in a real-life work setting. We will do so over time, enabling us to capture the causality in the basic relationship between sleep and work, examine their reciprocal nature and effects over time in the setting of agile creative and innovative work. As boundary conditions of work and sleep relationship unfolding over time in this context, we will also investigate employee personal characteristics (e.g., proactivity, resilience) and job/contextual characteristics (e.g., autonomy, task interdependence, social support, skill variety, psychological safety).

WP1: Sleep-work-sleep reciprocal and potentially recursive relationship

In WP1, we examine the mutual (reciprocal, potentially recursive) effects between sleep and work constructs. Specifically, we explore how sleep mediates the effect of work conditions on work outcomes, which in turn affect the perceived (or actual) work conditions.

WP2: Measuring sleep in natural environment

Subjective assessment of sleep quality and disturbance is important to a variety of researchers and clinicians because diminished sleep quality and the presence of sleep disturbance can profoundly impact quality of life and work. Until recently, studies tackling sleep and work associations assessed sleep in a subjective manner. 

Objective daily sleep measurement used to only be possible with nocturnal polysomnography, which is still the gold standard. It typically involves a single overnight assessment, usually taking place in a sleep center, during which physiological signals including electroencephalographic (EEG), electromyographic (EMG), and electrooculographic (EOG) activity, breathing effort, airflow, pulse, and blood oxygen saturation are recorded.

Addressing this lacuna, the latest smart sleep tracking devices are designed to measure sleep parameters objectively and non-invasively. A relatively new, rather easier to apply than polysomnography, and relatively affordable smart measurement device Dreem 3 is used for daily sleep tracking in this research project. It has been validated in clinical trials by comparing with polysomnography. Such measurement have been shown to achieve sufficient sensitivity and specificity. We find it equally important to observe working individuals in real-life situations, rather than in laboratory settings (which can be an intervention to their behaviour per se).

WP3: Innovative work behaviour, agile work and sleep

In WP3, we will examine the relations between sleep and work in the context of knowledge and idea work. In particular, we will explore how agile working practices affect sleep and how sleep, in turn, affects work outcomes (creativity, innovation). Agile work is characterised by tight schedules and periods of intense work, which contributes to individuals feeling under pressure. In combination with the fact that high levels of adaptability and flexibility are needed to correspond to such agile modes of working, this is bound to induce work-related stress. 

In the proposed research project, we will investigate how creativity and innovation, as well as task performance and knowledge sharing, are affected by sleep-induced work stress. 

WP4: Boundary conditions of the reciprocal relationship between sleep and work

The proposed project's basic premise is that sleep (quantity and/or quality) affects work experiences and outcomes, and/or vice-versa; that work-related occurrences affect sleep. However, there are important potential boundary contributions to the basic relationship, and those moderators entail the most interesting implications for practice – be it in the recruitment of personnel, their training and development, or setting up the work context that is less likely to lead to detrimental outcomes. 

The first set of boundary conditions that the proposed project will look into is related to job/contextual characteristics (e.g., autonomy, task interdependence, social support, skill variety, psychological safety).

The second set of moderators relates to personal characteristics. We know from research and practical evidence that some individuals can power through and meet work-related goals and obligations despite the sleep-related hardship while also maintaining their own well-being. Proactivity, resilience and prosocial motivation have been identified as particularly salient potential moderators to be investigated in this project. 

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