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Taking care of business

Should You Nap at Work?

Feb 03 2016

You know the feeling. It's mid-afternoon and suddenly you feel incredibly drowsy. You want nothing more than to curl up for a quick catnap.

While that's usually the cue to hit the coffeepot or maybe grab a snack, some people have another option. They take officially sanctioned naps, right in their workplaces.

That's right: sleeping on the job is considered OK — even encouraged — by businesses that have found that employee napping increases productivity.

Take Nationwide Planning Associates, for example. The Paramus, N.J.-based financial planning firm built a “rejuvenation center” in 2012. The small, windowless room features a comfy leather recliner and gently bubbling tabletop fountain. Each of the company's 15 employees, including its CEO, is allotted two 30-minute sessions weekly to visit the room, power-napping if they wish or just to chill out — extra unscheduled times are available if needed.

The rejuvenation center exists due to the efforts of James Colleary, chief compliance officer at Nationwide, who pitched the idea to his bosses. Colleary had briefly used a nap room at a previous internship and thought it made sense. Nationwide invested $10,000 to transform an unused closet.

“Since implementing the rejuvenation center, I have noticed that employees are generally happier, and happier employees translate to more productive employees,” Colleary says.

Science backs Colleary up. Researchers have found that a brief 20-30 minute nap can provide:

No wonder, then, that naps can save companies money, says the National Sleep Foundation's Sleep.org. About a third of us report either falling asleep or getting very sleepy at work, which costs the U.S. $63 billion in lost productivity. 

As a result, both large and small companies have installed nap rooms in the past few years. Among some bigger names: Nike, The Huffington Post, Google, Zappos, Ben & Jerry's and HubSpot.

Another company, MetroNaps, sells high-tech workplace sleep chairs with built-in vibrations, soothing music and special lighting. The price tag for these pod-like recliners (which are used by Google): $9,000 - $13,000.

Three percent of about 470 companies surveyed by the Society of Human Resource Managers offer nap rooms, according to a 2014 survey. This number was down from the 6% reported in previous years. It remains to be seen whether that was a statistical anomaly or a sign that the nap room trend is tapering off.

If you do plan to nap at work, here are some tips:

1. Snooze early in the day

You don't want to mess up your night-time sleep with a late-day nap, cautions Sleep.org. Many people feel sleepy at about 2-3 p.m. This isn't too early to nap, but much later could throw off night-time nodding.

2. Don't sleep too long

Researchers generally recommend 20-30 minutes. Any longer and you could enter deep sleep — which might make you too groggy for productive work once you wake up. 

3. Relax the room

You may use calming murals, soothing scents, soft lights and music to ease the transition to sleep. Outfit the room with hammocks, bean bag chairs, couches or recliners. And make sure the room is sufficiently dark — consider light-blocking shades if the room has windows.

4. Remember your priorities

Though naps may increase productivity and focus, work remains paramount. Colleary notes that at Nationwide, if a pressing work matter interferes with a nap, the work takes precedence. Naps can always be rescheduled for a later time, but immediate issues probably lack such flexibility. 

 

Lorna Collier is a Chicago-area writer whose articles on business and technology have appeared in the AARP Bulletin, Intuit Small Business Blog, Workforce Management, Crain’s Chicago Business, CNN, US News, the Chicago Tribune, and others. Follow her @lornacollier.

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