Nap Your Way to the Top

Along with exercise and good nutrition, proper sleep is one of the key components to a healthy and productive lifestyle. This fact is slowly but surely being recognized by the business world, and many companies are adopting revolutionary “sleep on the job” practices in order to promote a healthier and more beneficial work environment for their employees.

While it may be counterintuitive, experts say that workers who rest more are ultimately more productive. Likewise, a 2012 study conducted by Harvard Medical School concluded that more sleep also increases a person’s ability to learn and memorize information more efficiently.

Some of the world’s most successful companies, including Google, Nike, The Huffington Post, and The New York Times, allow napping at work to get the most out of their employees. Sleeping at work isn’t limited solely to employees, either. Both Forbes and Bloomberg suggest top executives can benefit from the practice, and that people at all levels of business should carve out some time during the day to recharge their batteries.

Many of the companies that have adopted this philosophy have even installed entire sleeping facilities to address the issue. Google, for instance, has created a plush sleeping room complete with specialized pods outfitted with soothing music and gentle alarm systems to wake employees after a designated period of time. The real challenge, it seems, has been overcoming the perception that sleeping at work equates to slacking off.

Once stigmatized as an indicator of poor job performance, modern day workforces are chipping away at that misconception to show employees that it’s acceptable to break for naps. A key component of this has been raising awareness, explaining to employers and employees alike that the benefits of sleep have been backed by significant research which shows unequivocally that more rest equals better overall output. Not only does it heighten efficiency, but it also helps to boost company morale by blurring the oft-rigid work/life boundary, something progressive tech companies have been trying to do for years.

Job performance aside, another major benefit of allowing workers to sleep on the job is the health effects. Interestingly, while sleeping at work remains a somewhat controversial idea, it is almost universally accepted for companies to install on-site fitness facilities and health food cafeterias in order to increase the well-being and, ultimately, the productivity of their employees. Yet, some of the same companies remain skeptical about harnessing the power of sleep to meet the same objective.

Instead, workers turn to addictive and harmful stimulants in order to keep themselves awake and alert while on the job. Caffeine (and coffee in particular) has become the accepted stimulant of the American workforce, with 37 percent of employees going as far as to say they “need” a cup of coffee in the morning simply to make it out the door, and even more admitting they can’t function properly without their daily fix. Some executives, such as Chris Correnti, Vice President and General Manager of Staples, simply see this as an indication that breakrooms need to be adequately stocked with more coffee. Researchers, such as Dr. David F. Dinges, argue the opposite.

Dinges, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in sleep and chronobiology, conducted a 2010 interview in which he pointed to the biological necessity of sleep as a major factor in not only productivity but safety and overall health. He reasoned that there is a tendency to view sleep as a motivating behavior as opposed to a biological necessity, and therefore lack of sleep can frequently create propensity for adverse health effects in addition to human error which sometimes results in disaster.

In a 24/7 world, Dinges argued, ignoring the necessity for sleep can be disastrous for society. The consequences of sleep deprivation aren’t limited to the corporate world, but also carry over to public safety systems, hospitals, public transportation, and a public education system that increasingly has its students wake up earlier and earlier in order to accommodate its mass transit system. The solution for this, he reasoned, is not to attempt to eliminate production that interferes with nocturnal sleeping patterns–as this would result in economic catastrophe–but to implement realistic measures to accommodate sleep while on the job, much like the tech-giants have done.

Feature photo courtesy of Nathan.