In the past, nodding off at your desk was considered not only embarrassing but also exceedingly bad form. Not to mention probable cause for reprimand, if not firing. But in today’s highly stressed, sleep-deprived, caffeine-dependent culture, the ability to take a guilt-free nap is more often considered a welcome, healthful workplace amenity. Even better, it can have significant positive effects on a company’s bottom line.
A rested employee is a productive employee. It makes sense for employers to allow today’s highly mobile worker to sneak in rest any time and any way they can -- even if it means stealing a few minutes for snoozing on company time.
There are many reasons why smart employers are considering pro-napping policies for their workplaces. Here are a few:
They aren’t getting it at home.
According to National Sleep Foundation research, nearly half of all Americans today say that insufficient sleep at night affects their daily activities. Many of us aren't getting the recommended seven to nine hours of rest most adults need to be happy, healthy and productive. A quick daytime nap (20 to 30 minutes should do the trick) can satisfactorily augment nighttime sleep -- and therefore improve employee productivity.
It's backed by science.
A huge quantity of scientific evidence supports napping as a useful tool to heighten employee performance. Study after study overwhelmingly suggests that a quick cat nap (even 10 minutes helps) can boost brain activity, enhance concentration, support creativity and even reduce the risk of disease.
It can bolster worker effectiveness.
Nap breaks can enhance productivity and efficiency in five ways.
First, naps boost alertness. Research conducted at the Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital in Northport, N.Y., concluded that a short sleep session can improve cognitive functioning and alertness, resulting in a 30 percent decline in attention failures from the baseline measure. This is especially valuable in environments focused on safety. There, workers can expect a 30 percent boost -- a key to maintaining safe procedures -- after a nap.
Second, naps increase productivity. When employees are tired, they perform at less-than-optimal levels. Harvard researchers estimate that sleep deprivation costs the U.S. roughly $63.2 billion in lost productivity each year. A quick nap can be restorative enough to keep an employee working at desired productivity levels for longer periods of time.
Naps also enhance well-being. A happy employee is a more productive employee, and adequate rest can improve an employee’s happiness. A study from Hiroshima University's Department of Behavioral Sciences shows that naps improve an employee’s self confidence when performing tasks. Naps also can mitigate the type of stress fatigue that often occurs in and makes it difficult to cope with fast-paced, high-volume environments. Giving people a chance to recharge helps them deal with work overload and the stress that comes with it.
Napping heightens learning, too. Even a very short period of sleep is sufficient to enhance memory processing, according to a study by the University of Düsseldorf. This can not only benefit employees with their current tasks but also improve effectiveness and efficiency when it comes to learning new products, training on new systems and incorporating new processes.
Finally, employees who nap make customers happier. When customers see smiling faces around the office, everybody benefits. This is especially true for employees who have direct contact with customers and clients. Happiness and a sense of well-being are contagious. When napping at work fosters these feelings, the net-net looks something like this: Happy employees nurture happy clients, and happy clients make your bottom line happy, too.
If none of these reasons can convince you to trial a nap “zone” or policy for your organization, consider this: Today's pro-nap companies aren't solely the small, quirky startups. Some of the world's biggest, most successful companies now encourage naps at work. These include Google, The Huffington Post, Salesforce.com, Uber, Zappos, Capital One Labs, Ben & Jerry’s and PwC.
So next time you join that mid-afternoon meeting and colleagues lament they could fall asleep, perhaps you should tell them to go right ahead. It could start a new era of happiness and productivity among workers at all levels of your organization. And it could put you ahead of the competition that’s been “sleeping on the job” when it comes to being in-the-know about the solid benefits of napping.