By Tina Irgang
This week, a picture of Richard Branson is making the rounds that shows him posing with an employee who is taking a nap on an office couch. On his blog, Branson notes the employee was getting some “much-needed rest,” and napping at the office has certainly become more acceptable, especially in the tech and startup worlds. But is it really a good idea?
“Studies have shown that naps improve immune health, energy, cognitive function and emotional control,” even those as short as 10 minutes, notes Business Insider. And an employee who is in better health and has more energy certainly seems like a good thing.
However, the reality of napping at work is a little more complex, as Canadian tech startup AskForTask.com discovered. The company set up a nap room for its developers, who were working up to 70 hours a week, according to BBC Capital.
“Management put a 15-minute cap on power naps, but many employees accidentally overslept,” the article notes. “Awaking groggy, a number of them then spent even more time refilling their coffee mugs or splashing water on their faces in an attempt to snap back to work form.”
The whole process of getting back into work mode took up to 90 minutes. Six months into the nap program, “the once-efficient team was reaching only 55 percent of its weekly goals, down some 30 percentage points from before the sleep experiment,” according to AskForTask.com’s co-founder, Nabeel Mushtaq.
However, BBC Capital notes that a number of large companies, including Nike, Apple, Procter & Gamble and HootSuite, have embraced the practice of nap breaks.
That’s in part because naps have been shown to enhance employees’ ability to tackle difficult challenges. “Napping allows your brain to sort out and consolidate ideas, enhancing your creativity and problem-solving ability. If you’ve been struggling with something that’s difficult or complex, ‘napping on it’ might be the key to finding a solution,” says Inc.
Creating a better nap
So how can you reap the enhanced creativity naps have been shown to engender in your employees, while minimizing their impact on productivity? The following approaches can help companies balance the competing outcomes of a napping culture:
- Use naps to prepare for a big day. HubSpot CEO Mike Volpe tells Entrepreneur that he relies on naps to stay sharp on days that will feature important, draining events, such as a major presentation. HubSpot also encourages naps for those who have recently returned from business travel to other time zones.
- Time naps to coincide with the mid-afternoon slump. Most workers’ productivity and alertness decrease dramatically sometime between 2 and 4 pm, notes CNN. Sleeping during this time can reenergize you and keep you going for that much longer.
- Make napping privileges contingent on performance goals. At HubSpot, the nap room is booked like a conference room, and employees are free to schedule as much time there as they need, as long as they’re still meeting all goals, according to Entrepreneur.
- Model your nap culture. If you’re concerned about how employees will use (or abuse) their napping privileges, show them how it’s done. According to Business Insider, Arianna Huffington, a big proponent of workplace naps, makes it a point to nap in her glass office — without drawing the curtains.
Tina Irgang is the managing editor of SmartCEO magazine and SmartCEO.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.