We’ve all been there: It’s the middle of the workday, your morning coffee has worn off, and that drowsy 2 p.m. feeling starts to settle in. Your productivity is zapped. What do you do? Some reach for more coffee or a caffeinated beverage to harness some energy, but have you considered finding a quiet spot for a quick nap?
Napping on the job used to be a great way to get fired, but some companies are beginning to break the stigma around getting in a few zzz’s while at work – and they’re reaping the benefits of doing so. Learn why napping on the job can help you and your employees and how to incorporate napping into your company culture.
Why you should let your employees nap on the job
Taking periodic naps may seem counterintuitive to accomplishing more work, but studies show it has several benefits. If you encourage employees to set their work aside in favor of some shut-eye, your staff – and, therefore, your company – are more likely to perform better in the long run. Here are some of the top advantages of letting employees nap on the job.
While we may assume that powering through the workday without breaks is the most effective way to work, it’s actually a flawed idea. Taking breaks throughout the day can increase productivity because humans are wired to take time to recharge.
According to sleep scientists, our brains achieve maximum productivity when we follow 90 minutes of work with 20 minutes of recharging. During that downtime, we might become drowsy, let out a few yawns, and yearn for some sleep. If we don’t listen to this natural pattern, known as our ultradian rhythm, stress builds and productivity plunges.
To truly tap into the full potential of your employees, let them follow their natural flow and snooze – or do another relaxing activity – during each 15- to 20-minute period.
If this 90-20 rule doesn’t work for you and your business, the ever-popular Pomodoro technique can be a great alternative. That method calls for 25 minutes of focused time followed by a five-minute break. The process is repeated four times, followed by a longer 15- to 30-minute break.
Better creativity and cognitive thinking
Well-rested employees are in a better position to perform their best. People who get an optimal amount of sleep experience better cognitive thinking than those who are sleep deprived. This includes excelling at essential work functions like learning, decision-making, attention and memory recall.
You can’t expect employees to be creative or at the top of their game if they’re running on fumes. Giving your employees the ability to rest throughout the day can enhance their cognitive functions, which means fewer mistakes, better results and overall better employee performance.
In addition to aiding productivity and creativity, letting employees nap during the day boosts their health. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average adult needs at least seven hours of sleep a night to achieve optimal health – yet it’s not uncommon for people to acknowledge that they don’t regularly achieve that target number. This discrepancy positions insufficient sleep as one of today’s most pressing health issues and one that has implications for the workplace.
In addition to straining overall health, lack of sleep decreases the amount of work you’re able to accomplish, and that boils down to dollars lost. In fact, around 3% of GDP is lost each year due to sleep deprivation, according to Sleep Advisor. Protect your bottom line and help employees inch closer to the recommended amount of sleep by giving them the opportunity to recharge with a nap during the day. This will not only improve their health and reduce stress levels, but also allow them to contribute more of their talents to your organization.
Exercise and other activities, like practicing yoga at work, also provide opportunities for employees to recharge midday and improve their physical and mental health.
How to incorporate naptime into your workplace
Now that you know the benefits of encouraging a little R&R at work, it’s time to put your employees to sleep. Follow these steps to incorporate naptime into your workplace.
1. Assess your naptime needs.
First, consider the resources you’ll need to facilitate a naptime environment. Do you need a large napping room? Will you be providing designated nap pods and white noise machines, or can your office get by with something basic?
Polling your staff is a great way to identify the nap-related settings and tools your employees would prefer. Consider sending out anonymous employee feedback surveys to ensure you get honest input.
2. Acquire and/or reallocate napping resources.
Although there are great nap-related products on the market, organizations needn’t invest in high-tech equipment to foster a nap-positive culture. If you’re working with limited space or a tight budget, consider the property and resources you currently have. For example, an empty or underused meeting room in your workspace can be turned into a designated nap area. [Read related article: 5 Ways to Improve Your Office Space’s Productivity.]
Invest in a few sleeping bags and blankets, or invite employees to bring their own. You can provide wireless, noise-canceling headphones so surrounding office noise doesn’t interrupt team members’ rest. You may even want to provide music proven to have soothing effects as they doze off. For example, the University of Nevada, Reno, suggests Native American, Celtic and Indian tracks with stringed instruments, drums and flutes to elicit relaxation. Light jazz, classical and easy-listening music mixed with nature sounds are also recommended.
3. Create a napping policy.
Once you have the appropriate space and resources necessary to create a comfortable napping environment for your staff, establish some general guidelines for employees to follow. For instance, you might want to set time limits or general time frames for employees to nap, like between the hours 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. This will set an expectation that naps are truly permitted and encouraged within a certain framework.
It can also be beneficial to have employees block out time on their calendar or set their Slack status to “away” when they’re napping so others know they are inaccessible during that time. This goes for in-office staff as well as remote employees. Make sure workers based at home know this naptime opportunity is open to them too.
The best nap length for most adults is around 20 minutes, per the Sleep Foundation. Naps longer than 30 minutes can send you into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is harder to wake up from and can cause grogginess instead of the desired freshness.
4. Educate your employees.
Educate employees about ultradian rhythms and the power of taking breaks. It may be tempting to fall back on old habits, such as powering through cycles when your body wants rest. But if you consistently encourage employees to take breaks – and remind them that they’ll work better as a result – you’re more likely to ensure that napping will become another normal workday element.
5. Lead by example.
It’s one thing to tell your employees they can take naps during the workday, and it’s another to show them. If you truly want to bake napping into your company culture and ensure your employees are comfortable getting some shut-eye while on the clock, make sure you and other business leaders are also taking the opportunity to nap. You’re the ones staffers look to for ideal workplace behavior, so kick off naptime yourself and urge your workers to continue the trend.
While it might seem like napping is a luxury that smaller companies can’t afford, naps may actually be the secret to boosting your business’s productivity and improving your team’s health and performance. With the right change in attitudes, it’s simple to implement a nap-positive culture in your organization. Whether you’re using sophisticated nap pods or old-fashioned sleeping bags, you’ll be taking a step toward a happier and more productive work culture.
Holger Reisinger contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.