Embracing Workplace Naps

In an adrenaline-charged world, napping might seem like the ultimate taboo, perhaps even grounds for dismissal, instead of an acceptable alternative to coffee and five-hour energy drinks for employees seeking a mid-afternoon lift. Moreover, with increased work-hours, nearly one-third of us are not getting enough sleep.

The Nap Culture

Unsurprisingly, Singaporeans are sleeping an average of six hours and 32 minutes daily, making it the 3rd most sleep-deprived city in the world. Tokyo, Japan was the city found to sleep the least, with an average of five hours and 44 minutes per night. Drowsiness on the job actually costs U.S. businesses $18 billion a year in lost productivity, according to a recent report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Clearly, our workplaces are fueled by sleep deprivation in today’s corporate world.

Studies are showing that naps can restore our attention, the quality of our work, while also helping us reduce our mistakes. It also improves our ability to learn while on the job. What’s more, the effects of napping extend a few hours into the day.

The concept of workplace napping is attributed to former Harvard researcher Sara C. Mednick. She advanced the idea in her book, “Take a Nap! Change Your Life!”, where  employees who are afforded the opportunity to snooze at work said it was so much better than a cup of coffee in the afternoon or a snickers bar. In her video: Give It Up for the Down State, she discussed the need for everyone to take more breaks to increase engagement, creativity and performance. She goes on to argue that a mid-afternoon nap can:

1) Result in increased memory and productivity among workforce.
2) Workplace naps restore proficiency in a variety of critical skills… and can produce improvements previously observed only after a full night of sleep.
3) 51% of the workforce report that sleepiness on the job interferes with the volume of work they can do.

Engagement and Productivity

Just 30 percent of American workers are engaged at work, according to Gallup, costing the nation $450 billion to $550 billion per year in lost productivity. If you are disengaged, Leah Gibbs on Lifestyle Careers suggests that sleeping on the job might be good for your productivity. Power naps and relaxation breaks can restore energy and focus during the workday, even during the dreaded mid-afternoon slump, allowing employees to be more focused and . Daytime drowsiness can affect mood, productivity, and creativity, but a brief nap may provide greater alertness for several hours to help improve attention, concentration and accuracy, according to David Neubauer, associate director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center

The benefits of a daytime nap range from increasing creativity and productivity to lifting your spirits. Although taking a midday snooze is frowned upon in most workplaces, Sleep Review reported in July that office “nap pods” are on the rise.

A number of leading companies, in an effort to keep employees engaged and focused, now offer nap rooms or encourage an afternoon break away from the desk. Procter & Gamble and Google, too, have installed ‘EnergyPods’, specifically designed for napping in the workplace, while Nike workers have access to nap-friendly ‘quiet rooms’ that can also be used for meditation. Ben & Jerry’s has a less formal policy on sleeping on the job, providing ‘unofficial’ space for the practice.

Finding a quiet place to rest during half of your lunch break may ensure you’re a happier and more engaged team member, especially when it comes to undertaking a challenging task later in the afternoon.

The Downsides

Scheduling nap time at work requires a huge shift in the way we think about work. While this may be applicable in the tech industry where employees tend to work long hours, others are equating naps with slacking off. The argument is that there are many other ways to improve employee’s engagement and productivity such as using their gym facilities to exercise and refresh yourself, or simply asking their employees to sleep earlier.

Not everyone wakes up from a snooze able to bounce back to their previous energy levels. And not all employees who leave their workstation for a “quick” walk or game of table football or table tennis return promptly. This means that power naps may or may not work for some people and companies need to take caution with this.


What do you think? Should napping at the workplace be adopted?

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