When you consider the billions of dollars that Americans spend on coffee, caffeinated soda, and energy drinks (Redbull, Monster, Rockstar), one thing comes clear – as a nation we’re either very thirsty or very tired. TV commercials feature droopy-eyed automatons struggling to reach the office vending machine or refrigerator before collapsing from exhaustion. One sip of magic elixir returns color to their face, they puff up like freshly baked bread, and return to work with a bounce in their step, presumably now able to survive the remainder of the day. Yes, we are a tired lot.
Enter the latest weapon in the war on exhaustion – the nap. In an effort to combat the nation-wide epidemic of torpor, companies are turning to a proven solution. Time was when we derided Mexicans for their daily siesta. Perhaps they were on to something all along.
But it’s not all one big joke. Recent studies have attempted to quantify the productivity impact of fatigue and the results are staggering. A study appearing in the January 2007 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), claimed the annual health-related costs of exhaustion exceed $138 billion in lost productivity.
With so much at stake, it might be worth giving the power nap a little more thought. Many companies are doing just that. Below are excerpts from two recent articles about napping in the workplace: Some Companies Encourage Napping at Work to Increase Productivity and Don’t Call After Lunch—I’m Napping.
• MedicalNewsToday.com says that "dozens of small medical studies have shown that napping for about 30 minutes to an hour in the early afternoon increases a person's productivity, alertness and sometimes even their mood.”
• "Still, unsanctioned napping —or to put it more precisely, '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."
• “Bloomberg Businessweek reported that companies where employees stay at the office past the typical eight-hour day tend to be more lax about napping at work. Nike, for example, has provided employees with nap-friendly "quiet rooms". These rooms can also be used for meditation. Google has a number of napping pods throughout its Mountain View campus. Airlines, including Continental and British Airways, allow pilots to sleep during long international flights while colleagues take control.”
• “Hearst, Newsweek and Time Warner have all outsourced their employee napping needs to Yelo, a napping spa in midtown Manhattan. The spa offers a "cocoon-like" treatment room where clients can adjust aromatherapy, sound and lighting. A 20-minute nap, which is all you really need to reap the benefits of a midday slumber, costs $15.”
• According to Bloomberg Businessweek, early research has shown that short periods of sleep "improve alertness, memory, motor skills, decision-making and mood".
• Christopher Lindholst, co-founder of MetroNaps, which markets a napping chair called the EnergyPod, said, "Over the last few years, there's been a lot of focus on exercise and nutrition, but adequate sleep is arguably the most important element of productivity."
• “Despite the data, however, The Wall Street Journal pointed out that a 2010 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that only 5 percent of employers have on-site napping rooms.”
“While beneficial, napping at work can have some drawbacks. For example, if an employee has been up all night, a midday nap can cause a hangover effect known as "sleep inertia". Napping policies may also pressure employees to stay at the office late into the night.”
Remember Robert Fulghum’s wonderful book All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned In Kindergarten? It’s one of the best books about business (and life) ever written. And guess what? It’s right there in black and white – take a nap every afternoon!
I know, it seems a bit comical. Unless, that is, you’re on the plane where the pilot dozes off. While it’s true the vast majority of jobs don’t require that level of alertness, we’ve all experienced moments at work when we just can’t keep our eyes open. I have an overstuffed chair and ottoman in my office for just such moments. You know, all this talk about naps is wearing me out. Hold my calls. I need to shut my eyes for a few minutes.