Kindergarten Had All the Great Ideas, Including Naps

Many of you may recall reading Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. If you take a look at his list of rules, you’ll find it describes several policies you already follow and enforce in your workplace. “Don’t hit people” certainly describes your no-fighting policy. “Put things back where you found them” and “Clean up your own mess” are a couple of policies you’ve probably instituted to prevent workplace injuries and keep the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) away. “Don’t take things that aren’t yours” epitomizes your no-stealing policy. Your wellness programs probably address the adage “Live a balanced life.” But what about “Take a nap every afternoon”? Napping is taboo in most workplaces. It’s equated with laziness in corporate culture. Some employers are viewing naps in another light, however.

burnoutHow Does Napping Benefit Employers?

Employers have increasingly focused on exercise and nutrition as important to keeping their employees healthy and combating rising healthcare costs. The benefits of improving employees’ health are now gospel in the HR arena. In the United States, lack of sleep is of epidemic proportions, and it’s almost certainly having an impact on your business.

Napping has been studied by NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and universities around the world. Studies have shown that a 20to 30-minute nap can have a more beneficial impact on your employees, and correspondingly on the work they perform for you, than the downtime it costs. Some of the known benefits of napping at work include:

  • Better concentration;
  • Fewer mistakes;
  • Improved workplace safety;
  • Reduced workers’ compensation costs;
  • Increased motor skills;
  • Reduced stress; and
  • Fewer negative emotional responses (such as frustration).

And potential employees will likely view sanctioned napping as a pretty sweet perk!

How to Start a Napping Culture

If you’re interested in letting your employees grab a catnap during their shifts, there are a variety of ways to make it possible. You can go all out like Google and install EnergyPods&#reg; on-site so employees can enjoy restorative sleep sessions. If you don’t have thousands of dollars in your nap budget, other strategies are available. For instance, install some blackout blinds in one of your conference rooms. Then, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., the prime napping time, block off use of the conference room for napping. Toss in some beanbags, turn on some white noise, and tell employees to “BYOP” (bring your own pillow) for a perfect nap space.

You may want to consider designating a room solely for napping and meditation. Place some recliners or sofas in the room, and your employees are ready to catch a few z’s. Or let employees stash a pillow in their office and put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, and just give them permission to recharge. It doesn’t take much to reap the benefits of napping.

The concern many employers may have is that the privilege will be abused. But that’s a risk with any privilege. Consider discouraging some misuse by using a sign-up sheet for the nap space. And monitor employee performance as usual. If an employee’s performance slips, investigate the reasons to see if excessive napping is the problem. You may instead find that napping is a solution.

Bottom Line

We learned it in kindergarten, and the science backs it up: Napping has big benefits. That brief loss of time may significantly improve employee health and safety as well as boost employee productivity overall. You may find that sleeping on the job isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Vanessa L. Towarnicky is an Attorney with Steptoe & Johnson, PLLC. You may contact her at 304-290-0818 or vanessa.towarnicky@steptoe-johnson.com.

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