Falling Asleep at Work Increases Productivity

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(Editor’s Note: This guest post is by our talented colleague, and friend Cathy Taylor. Cathy is a social media expert who helps businesses develop comprehensive communications strategies to achieve business goals and objectives. More of Cathy’s insightful articles can be found on her blog.)

Imagine going to work and finding the boss has roped off a section in the back of the office for the new sleep pods set to arrive next week.

Sleep pods? Are you serious?

A few minutes later you wander past the HR director’s office and she confirms an order was placed for ten new sleep pods. She adds that a new policy will go into effect next quarter. All employees who need a nap during the day will be encouraged to use the sleep pods for twenty minutes after lunch. As you walk back to your cubicle scratching your head you are reminded of that day last month when you locked yourself in the bathroom stall to catch some Z’s. It couldn’t be helped. It was either take a nap or startle your coworkers with a thud sound as your head hit the desk.

This sounds like a far-fetched idea but more companies are beginning to embrace the idea of sanctioned naps during day. Companies like British Airways, Google, Nike, Pizza Hut and Procter & Gamble have implemented policies that allow employees some downtime in the office.

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!” Feedback from employees who are afforded the opportunity to snooze at work say it’s so much better than a cup of coffee in the afternoon or a snickers bar.

However, there is no denying workplace napping is counterintuitive in the United States. It begs the question: How long before company leadership begins to view napping as a competitive advantage?

Here are some compelling arguments for workplace naps from Dr. Mednick’s research:

1) It results in increased memory and productivity among workforce.
2) Dr. Mednick cites epidemiological studies that show decreases in heart disease and stress.
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.

At the moment, workplace napping is still a long way from becoming prevalent in the U.S. According to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, only five percent of employers allow their workers to take a nap during the day.

Scheduling nap time at work requires a huge shift in the way we think about work. And as more employers look for ways to fill job vacancies, enhance employee engagement and retain the best workers taking a nap might not be such a bad idea. Nap time at work may no longer be just for slackers!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

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  1. What happened to the “new” idea that exercising during lunch made you more productive? Bell of PA/Bell Atlantic/Verizon would never entertain the idea.

  2. I love the idea! When I get tired, I just go out to my car and lay down. I see many other colleagues out in their cars resting too.

  3. Cathy, I like the article. I run the UK division of the company that installed the Sleep Pods (or EnergyPods as we call them) at some of the companies you mention. When people ask why they should take a nap I ask them: If there was a pill (with no harmful side effects) that made you 100% more alert, 34% more productive, improved your memory by 36%, enhanced energy for up to 8 hours and reduced your risk of dying of heart disease by 64% would you take that pill? The answer is inevitably YES! All these benefits have been shown to accrue from a brief mid-day nap. Also think if the guy in the control room of the power plant up the road from you is nearing the end of his 4th consecutive night shift – do you want them to be so tired they miss the warning signs leading to a major disaster. (Same point re your pilot, train driver, the guy in the big truck on the road beside you and many more).

    1. Marcus: Thanks for sharing the additional value/benefits of nap time at work. Of the companies you are currently partnered with, what evidence did they have, if any, to support their decision to install the energy pods? One would have to think with the information you’ve shared here that more companies would be knocking on your door.

      Thanks so much for your comments!

  4. Cathy, thank you. I want to work there. Although, virtual/home-based workers can really help push the napping agenda. Also, co-working sites (like NextSpace in Santa Cruz, CA — which I’ve joined recently) are another place that embraces the 21st century progressive way to work, including areas to nap.

  5. I RT and cc a few friends. There’s a group of us on twitter who tweet #powernapsrule and have been doing so for more than a yeara now. Karla wrote a post similar to this last year. Power naps are powerful, and restorative. Brava for taking on this topic!

  6. I have family in Spain and when I go to visit I love seeing everyone out and about during their siestas. I always thought how wonderful they would be if they were implemented in the U.S. I would love to see leaders start acting on this idea!

  7. I’ve never mastered the art of “catnapping.” One of my college roommates could doze off for fifteen or twenty minutes and wake up refreshed; I seem to need at least 90 minutes. However, I’ve always valued “going out” for lunch–even if it means walking around the corner to a deli and bringing back a sandwich. As I sit at a desk most of the day, a little exercise and fresh air (or what passes for fresh air in an urban area) refreshes me. I also prefer taking some time away from my desk to eat, or reading something unrelated to work to shift gears. The mental effect seems to more than make up for time spent not working. So I can see how a nap will help some people, and a little “away time” might work for the rest of us.

    1. @Karen: I agree. A nap may not work for everyone but as you said, just the chance to get out and clear your head can be just as powerful. Enjoy lunch today, okay? :-).

      Thanks for visiting and for your comment.

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  9. I’m totally “down” with napping. Meaning I think it’s a great idea. Perhaps in the years 2020 big business will catch on, but I think for now, entrepreneurs can use those “cat naps” to tap their inner creative juices that get squished by working too many hours. I’m all about it!

  10. Karla Porter, Mervynn Dinnen, and I have been tweeting about #PowerNapsRule since 2009. I believe in the restorative power of napping. Karla actually did some empirical research, and wrote a post about it almost 2 years ago. I’ve been tooting this horn for a very long time. Way to go Cathy…way to go.

  11. It has been a common practice in the workplace in many Asian countries such as China, Taiwan and Japan. When I told my friends in Taiwan that Americans don’t take a nap at work, they exclaimed “How do they stay awake and energized at work for the whole day in the office?”, ” They drink coffee or red-bull”, I said.

  12. Great article! Taking a nap or just getting away from the office as some others have noted does allow you to become recharged and energized. I wonder how long before we see “sleep pods” listed as a common company benefit-probably have years to go in the U.S.

  13. Intriguing post – definitely remember looking for a place for a lunchtime nap at my summer jobs during college! Now that I work from home, love the flexibility and freedom I have to recharge as needed during my day (often a walk or break with family fits the bill now! 🙂

  14. Intriguing post – definitely remember looking for a place for a lunchtime nap at my summer jobs during college! Now that I work from home, love the flexibility and freedom I have to recharge as needed during my day (often a walk or break with family fits the bill now! 🙂

  15. Our kindergarten classes got it right! I think power naps are a good idea, but only if the employees have good discipline. It would be easy for an undisciplined, unengaged worker to demand catching some zz’s after a night of irresponsible drinking and taking the 20 minutes of nap time, in addition to unproductive and frequent nodding off throughout the day.

    Also, I suppose it depends on the company itself: the companies cited in the article are large corporations that have already shot themselves to the forefront of their industries. They can afford the 20 minutes their employees need to nap. For smaller, newer companies still in the nascent phase, their priority might be more short-term success/survival and can’t afford the lost time.

    A great idea nonetheless, and I’m glad that my very flexible work with EmployeeSurveyToolkit.com allows me to nap when I need!

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