Sleeping on the job may still be frowned upon as a sign of laziness, but in recent years, many progressive companies have begun to encourage employees to take mid-day naps to recharge.
Marketing-software company, HubSpot has a nap room featuring a hammock suspended above a plush carpet and soothing cloud-covered walls to encourage its 750 employees to catch some z’s at work. CMO Mike Volpe, who is known to use the nap room frequently, says a 20-minute nap is often all he needs to regain focus and re-energize to be more productive for the rest of the day.
The nap room is seen as a way to help employees balance the demands of work and home life. A father of two young children, Volpe often finds himself chasing after the elusive full night’s sleep, leaving him fighting fatigue during the workday.
“If I have things that are particularly draining for me, like a presentation or lots of interviews, getting 20 or 30 minutes to pay back some of the sleep I lost the night before can make me so much more effective,” he says.
The nap room is also often used by frequent travellers. “We do a fair amount of business in California and we have an office in Dublin so we’re often coming back to the office after a red-eye,” says Volpe. Rather than trying to slog through the day, which can lead to errors in judgement and a decline in productivity, HubSpot has found allowing employees to have a rest can help make the day much more productive.
Napping has become increasingly popular in the tech industry, where developers are often required to work long hours, but where company culture hinges on creating a laid-back atmosphere in order to attract top talent and compete with companies who offer perks such as game rooms, lounges and on-site frozen yogurt stations. Google was among the first large tech companies to promote napping. The tech giant introduced energy pods -- reclining chairs that sit inside a large bubble and include built-in music producing soothing sounds and an alarm that wakes up nappers with lights and vibration.
Offering employees a space to catch a mid-day siesta is now becoming a common amenity for companies looking to position themselves as progressive, dynamic places to work – almost as attractive as the office coffee machine, yet perhaps more beneficial. A 2008 study showed a power nap is more effective than caffeine.
Although napping is becoming a more popular employee perk in some industries, there’s still a great deal of resistance in the corporate world towards sleeping on the job, says Terry Cralle, a certified sleep expert who helps companies to implement a company culture that encourages napping.
“I’m still surprised that people are put off by napping," she says. "We’ve got great research supporting the fact that naps can help corporations and employees, yet we still feel reluctant to make it an acceptable part of a healthy lifestyle and a healthy workday."
The problem, she says, is that many employers and executives equate naps with slacking off, something Cralle says couldn’t be farther from the truth. “Some large companies have workout areas or gyms on-site and yet we’re turning a blind eye to sleep and it’s a biological necessity,” she says.
Here’s what to consider when encouraging napping in your workplace:
Build a separate room. A quiet room with couches, a hammock or, if you have the funds, a sleep pod, is essential to encouraging employees to nap. HubSpot’s nap room is located in a quiet part of the office and painted a calming shade of green with clouds and a soft carpet below the hammock to encourage drifting off. Cralle says while the mid-afternoon nap comes naturally to some, others need to learn how to nap. Having a space that encourages the body to shut down is key to training them to nap.
Make napping part of company culture. Making napping a part of company culture means employees won’t be sneaking shut-eye away from supervisors and co-workers, but rather sends the message that naps are encouraged as a way to help employees perform at their best. At HubSpot, the nap room is booked like a conference room. There are no rules about how often employees can use it, but Volpe says there haven’t been any issues around misuse. “Anyone can book it for as short or as long and as often as they want, as long as they’re meeting their performance goals,” he says.
Encourage employees to time their naps appropriately. A nap before a meeting or a major presentation could make all the difference between success or a performance flop. A NASA study showed a nap of just 26 minutes can boost productivity by as much as 34 percent and increase alertness by 54 percent.