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Napping at Work – Why don’t Employers Encourage it?

Last updated by on 8 Comments

Nap at Work? Stop Questioning & Start Encouraging!

Last week, asked the question, “Should employees be allowed to nap at work?“.

It’s an interesting question, but with all the studies out there extolling the virtues of getting adequate sleep and taking naps when needed and the resulting productivity gains (see NASA study on naps at work significantly increasing working memory, or anything the National Sleep Foundation publishes, for example), perhaps the question should be re-phrased to:

“Why aren’t employees encouraged to take naps at work?”

It’s a question that more employers should explore.

Sure, there are jobs where napping is simply not possible, or at least not easily accommodated to. But there are a whole hell of a lot of jobs where napping is entirely possible and easily accommodated to (think any office job – it just takes a small pillow and just maybe an alarm clock).

I think the short answer to this question comes down to this: employers are afraid to encourage any activity that might even remotely (by nature) inhibit or challenge productivity.

nap at work

The irony, in this case, is that naps represent a complete void in productivity – and at the same time the after-effects represent a net positive in overall productivity. And more balanced and happier employees.

Without a doubt, most workers are too damn tired and everyone could benefit from us getting a refresher. A 2008 National Sleep Foundation sleep study found that:

  • 29 percent of those polled fell asleep or became very sleepy at work in the past month;
  • 36 percent have nodded off or fallen asleep while driving, with; 32 percent reporting that they drive drowsy at least 1 to 2 times per month and 26 percent drive drowsy during the workday;
  • 14 percent have missed family events, work functions and leisure activities in the past month due to sleepiness;
  • 12 percent were late to work in the past month because of sleepiness.

Do Employees Really have the Choice to Sleep at Work?

No. At least the ones who want to keep their jobs. About 50% of Fortune 500 employers will fire you for napping at work. Nobody is going to be the ‘pioneer’ at his/her workplace to start the trend of napping at work, if not encouraged first by their employer to do so. And the ones who are doing so, are doing it privately, which creates a guilty relationship with your employer even though you are doing something healthy for yourself that will improve your overall performance.

To the employers – when I say ‘encouraged’, I don’t mean turning a blind eye, I’m talking about placing a pillow and 15 minute alarm clock at everyone’s desk and sending a company-wide email encouraging employees to take naps if they need it. That’s ‘encouragement’!

Nap at Work Discussion:

  • Have you ever napped at work? Does your employer encourage or accept it?
  • Does napping at work improve your productivity?
  • If napping at your workplace is not currently encouraged, would you do it if it was?
  • Have you heard of another getting reprimanded or fired for napping at work?

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  • twentysomethingmoney says:

    I think if I knew my coworkers were napping, and I was busy with work, I’d see it in a very bad light, regardless of the intent. Can’t they down an energy drink or another cup of coffee like the rest of us?! hehe!

    • G.E. Miller says:

      ‘Energy’ drinks (caffeine and sugar overdoses) are one of the worst things you can legally do to your body. If that’s what it takes to make people productive at work, something is wrong. And does it really make people more productive? Once the buzz wears off and you crash, you’re less productive than before you took the drink. And people usually become miserable dicks to work while they are on their high and after they crash.

  • I think that napping definitely improves everyone’s productivity! The interesting barrier to this being allowed at work is simply the “image” of someone being lazy. I’ve heard of employers here in my town that just tell their employees to go out to their car if they need to take a nap.

  • Brian says:

    The challenge with this is the age-old principle of policy abuse. For every “legitimate” nap, you’d have two or three folks napping for napping’s sake. At the end of the day, this would create more workplace animosity that would deteriorate productivity much more than any increase in productivity from feeling “refreshed” after a nap. Working from home carries the same dilemma. Personally, I am significantly more productive when I get a chance to work from home, but I do so very rarely because of how the practice is perceived by the workplace. As a final note, if people are needing naps during the workday, I would suggest a lifestyle adjustment before a nap. Summon some energy and earn your wages like the many generations did before this wave of entitlement. Sleep at night.

  • Get Happy Life says:

    Very well written, Brian! I agree completely!

    The benefit of being refreshed is not that significant as you may think

  • broke professionals says:

    I wish I could remember back to Kindergarten to remember if I was better at finger painting after our daily nap-time………In all seriousness though, the truly sad statistic is that more than 1/4 of all employees have “napped” while at work or become very sleepy over the past month. It is a sign that people need to find work they are more passionate about. That said, perhaps a lunch-time siesta like some of the Europeans do might be a good alternative. Napping wouldn’t be so looked down upon if you did it at home during your lunch time “siesta”. Knowing me though I would probably never wake back up.

  • Richard Stooker says:

    I understand why employers don’t want to encourage napping, and that in some jobs (heart surgery, for example, or assembly line work) it’s impossible.

    Yet I agree with you that for jobs where it can fit in, it would improve productivity.

    These days, many employees are paid salaries and judged by results rather than the amount of time they put in. Frequently they put in many more than eight hours a day. If it’s okay for me to work at my desk for you until 9 at night, why shouldn’t I be allowed a 4 in the afternoon nap?

    Now that I’m self-employed, I try to be a tough employer on myself. But when I feel that late afternoon haze come over me, I know it’s more productive to lie down and take a nap than to fight it. I’ll be working till midnight, so why not?

    There is one caution, however. Most Americans consume far too many carbohydrates, and that does lead to unnecessary sleepiness. I can see how employers would object to time off to take a nap because you ate a candy bar for break instead of an apple.

    Many modern jobs require creativity and planning. That requires thought. Leaning back in your chair and closing your eyes can be much more productive than sitting at a computer and typing, just to keep looking busy in case the boss is watching.

    Thomas Edison was a notorious napper. He worked around the clock, but did sleep when he felt the need or wanted to think over the solution to some technical problem. Good thing he wasn’t an employee, or he’d have filed a lot fewer patents.

  • Retired Jane says:

    I know that in Spain, napping is actually something really popular and is called “Siesta”. When I travelled there, most small commerces were closed from 1 to 3PM! They are closing shops later so at the end of the day they are doing the same amount of hours. I just think it’s more healthy, are you that productive after lunch? In my case I must drink a cup of coffee or I won’t be able to do anything else than facebook for at least 2 hours!


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