The key to productivity may actually be encouraging workers to sleep during the day.
As winter approaches and days become shorter, low employee energy can suck the productivity from your small business. Some may reach for coffee or pop out to buy an energy drink, 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 a few Z's while at work. For example, MetroNaps sells futuristic-looking EnergyPods to companies, complete with noise-canceling headsets and soothing music. Organizations like NASA and large universities are bringing these pods into workspaces to encourage employees to re-energize midday.
Taking periodic naps may seem counterintuitive to accomplishing more work, but studies show it's an easy way to boost productivity. With the right change in attitudes, it's simple to implement a nap-positive culture in your small business.
While we may assume that powering through our workday without breaks is the most effective way to work, it is actually a flawed idea. Taking breaks throughout the day can actually 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 start to grow drowsy, let out a few yawns and yearn for some shut-eye. If we don't listen to this natural pattern, known as our ultradian rhythm, stress builds and productivity plunges. To truly tap the potential of your employees, it's important to let them follow their natural flow and snooze – or complete another relaxing activity – during the 15- to 20-minute period.
On top of the productivity boost, letting employees nap during the day aids employee health. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep a night – yet 35 percent of workers report getting less than seven hours of sleep each night. This discrepancy positions insufficient sleep as one of today's most pressing health issues.
In addition to straining overall health, lack of sleep decreases the amount of work we're able to accomplish. In fact, the U.S. loses $411 billion each year in productivity to sleep deprivation. Help employees inch closer to the recommended amount of sleep by giving them the opportunity to recharge with a nap. This will not only improve health and reduce stress levels, but also allow them to contribute more of their talents to your organization.
Organizations do not have to invest in high-tech equipment to foster a nap-positive culture. Instead, they should consider the space and resources available.
For example, an empty or underused meeting room in your workspace can be turned into a designated nap area. Invest in a few sleeping bags and blankets, or invite employees to bring their own. Also provide wireless, noise-canceling headphones so surrounding office noise doesn't interrupt employees' rest. You may even want to suggest employees listen to music proven to have soothing effects as they doze off. The University of Nevada, Reno suggests Native American, Celtic or Indian tracks with stringed instruments, drums and flutes. It also recommends light jazz, classical and easy-listening music mixed with nature sounds.
Also 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 our body wants rest. If you consistently encourage employees to take breaks – and remind them that they'll work better as a result – it's more likely that napping will become another normal workday element. Make sure that leaders are also taking the opportunity to nap. They're the ones setting an example in your office, so urge them to kick off and continue the trend.
While it might seem that napping is a luxury that small businesses can't afford, naps could actually be the secret to boosting your employees' productivity. Re-energize your workspace during these gloomy, shorter winter days by starting a nap-positive revolution in your office. Whether you're using sophisticated EnergyPods or old-fashioned sleeping bags, you'll be taking a positive step toward a happier, healthier and more productive company culture.