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Productivity and Workplace Napping

An old French saying captures what many of us feel sometimes when facing the daily grind “subway, work, sleep”, a more descriptive alternative to our rat race. But it’s worse when even the ‘sleep’ part of that trio gets eaten away at. 31% of people sleep for less than 7 hours per night and say they are lacking sleep. As a result, they experience fatigue during their daily commutes and drowsiness at work, with an observed dip in quality and efficacy when doing their job. Workplace napping can boost productivity, but is it always allowed?

Why nap at work?

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans sleep for less than seven hours per night, which is less than the 8 hours required for restorative sleep.

Bad sleep and tired workers

As a result of this lack of sleep, 80% of workers suffer from a wave of fatigue at work or during the day, and one in three office workers admit to having already fallen asleep at work.

The questions this raises from a collective standpoint have led specialists to recommend delaying the time at which school begins to better adapt to pupils’ and students’ biological clocks, but also to modify organization in the workplace to combat drowsiness at work.

According to the Employee Barometer BVA-BPI 2019, “Health and wellbeing at work further underscores the issue, stating that 15 % of employees deem there to be a lack of implication on the part of their companies when it comes to improving their quality of life at work. And yet, a workplace nap is pretty inexpensive, and it can even increase profits!”

The major economic impact of fatigue at work

This lack of sleep does indeed have economic repercussions for businesses.

Australian researchers have estimated that sleep disorders are cause for a drop in productivity tantamount to 12.19 billion dollars. Researchers from Harvard University place that figure at 63 billion for the whole of the American workforce.

Conversely, we know that many Asian companies are conscious of the benefits of workplace napping and have integrated a refreshing naptime ritual into managerial practices. It is thus commonplace for many Chinese, Korean and Japanese workers to take naps on the job.

Micro-napping boosts employee performance

We know that regular napping is like dope for employee productivity.

Sleep has a major effect on concentration, mood, responsiveness, memory, creativity, decision making and vigilance, all while decreasing stress levels and making us more sociable.

The benefits of napping at work can thus be just as beneficial in physically active professions as intellectual ones. Although people are getting 19 minutes less sleep than they should on average, a 20 minute nap is a proficient way to recharge your batteries.

Even simply closing your eyes for 5 minutes can help fight off drowsiness at work and lower your level of the stress hormone cortisol.

It thus best to make time for a nap, set an alarm to sound in 20 minutes, shut your eyes and let yourself doze off.

According to NASA, sleeping for ten to twenty minutes increases the productivity and creativity of workers by 35%!

You shouldn’t sleep for too long though, as you can risk making yourself groggy.

It’s also important to set clear rules to prevent tensions between adept nappers and non-nappers.

This is even more critical given that from a cultural perspective, napping is still frowned upon by western businesses: barely 12% of CEOs are open to the idea (OpinionWay Survey “Active workers and workplace napping” 2016).

How do you take a nap at the office?

Napping is confronted with cultural, logistic and even legal pushback: is it legal to take a nap at work?

Recently, a garbage collector who was photographed taking a nap was fired, and what was a HR debate finally ended up in court.

Is it legal to take a nap at work?

Although there is no text in labor law which formally prohibits napping, there are instances of case-law which serve as precedents. For example, the law allowed for a fireman who was in charge of airport safety and who fell asleep on the job to be fired for serious misconduct. The court of appeal ruled differently in the end, considering that the employee who fell asleep in a waiting room where he had been asked to wait was not at serious fault. Thus, he could not be fired on such grounds.

Conclusive experiments

Some countries in southern Europe offer their employees naptime as well as a lunchbreak of up to 3 hours. The practice of napping in other countries is often seen as a sign of laziness. Mindsets are however progressing.

Start-ups have been the first to get onboard, taking inspiration from German or Asian examples. In sectors where unemployment is rare and employee retention is a core concern, offering naps is seen as a quick way to boost productivity and creativity.

But large companies are joining the bandwagon too. Renault has had a Calm Space set up on one of its sites for its employees since 2016.

This space is arranged into small rooms with semi-reclining chairs, soft music and a ceiling light which changes colors to facilitate relaxation. Since it was installed, this Calm Space has been tried out by the 2,400 employees on the site. Those returning from business trips and pregnant women in particular sing its praises.

These rooms were thought up and developed in liaison with the occupational medical practice, with a view to reducing accidents in the workplace.

Despite these conclusive experiments, you still have to notify management and get approval before taking a nap. How can you do that if napping is seen in disregard, or maybe even disallowed?

What alternatives are there to workplace napping?

Although sleeping at work can have a bad rep, doing breathing exercises or meditation are often seen in a positive light. These are good alternatives, because they still allow you to rest, reduce physical tension and calm your nerves. They can also help you to wind down before sleeping at night.

By the same token, Neurofeedback exercises aren’t generally criticized. The aim of this medical practice is to take control the expression of certain types of brain waves. The feedback process allows you to analyze the information your body is sending so as to better adapt yourself to your environment. It’s a process used by specialized sleep doctors at the La Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital among others.

If you are looking to regain quality sleep, this is a powerful method to repair sleep and cure insomnia.

Thanks to connected devices, Neurofeedback techniques can be used at home and at work. It’s a 100% natural and relaxing way for patients to learn how to regulate their sleep.

The most important thing is never to feel guilty. Taking a nap at work or resting for 20 minutes will make you more productive, more efficient and increase your performance. Even your HR Director will have to believe you in the end!

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