It usually doesn’t help one’s career to sleep on the job. But today, many companies are encouraging their employees to take a short nap during the day. Major research has shown that a nap can improve productivity and help reduce the number of on-the-job accidents.
The effects of sleep deprivation on work performance may be costing US employers $18 billion dollars per year in lost productivity, according to a study by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). The study found that that 62% of people in the United States experience problems sleeping a few nights a week or more, and that most adults in the United States get less sleep than they need.
This lack of sleep affects our moods, reaction times, alertness, and motor skills, and takes a heavy toll on health, productivity, and safety. These scientific findings have prompted a growing number of companies to encourage employees to take 15-40-minute naps.
What Companies Say
Craig Yarde, president and owner of Yarde Metals in Bristol, Connecticut, says the company got involved with nap rooms 2 years ago when, of 80% of employees surveyed, 50% said they were napping on the job one to five times a week.
“That got us into a user-friendly nap philosophy and confirmed that we had a lot of closet nappers,” Yarde says. “At the company headquarters in Bristol, and seven branches, we are currently setting up nap rooms for our employees.”
In the meantime, says Yarde, his company has encouraged employees to doze off for 20 minutes or more, within reason. He says that with business running leaner, and with employees working harder and spending more hours in a stressful environment, the nap rooms add value to the company and its employees.
“There is no question,” says Yarde, “that production and safety factors increase in a better work environment for employees when you treat them with the respect they deserve and have facilities available for them to take a break, stretch out, and rest.”
The idea for Spent Tents (where you go when you are spent) began several years ago with Robert Gould of Gould Evans Affiliates, an architectural firm in Kansas City, Missouri. “Originally we intended to provide a ‘nap room,'” says Gould, “but as we were growing very quickly, and that space was ‘swiped,’ we came up with the Spent Tents idea. They are set up in a semi-quiet corner of the office.
“The tents are furnished with sleeping bags, pillows, camping mats, eyeshades, radios, alarm clocks, headphones and cassettes that play relaxation music. The tents are used more frequently during peak periods when we have deadlines. Many times they are used over lunch and in the afternoon. Generally, they are used a few times each week. We see this as a new way of increasing productivity. People get more done when they can sleep.”
What Employees Say
Rachel Bias, 28, a human resources coordinator at Gould Evans, loves the Spent Tents. She says, “I get migraine headaches, and my medication knocks me out. I take my medication, lie down, and sleep for an hour. Once my medication kicks in, I’m fine.”
Bias calls the program “fantastic,” and says that when a migraine headache strikes, she is not forced to sit at her desk. She can rest in a Spent Tent and then go back to work when she feels better.
At Burlington and Northern Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, Alan Lindsey, general director of safety and rules, emphasizes that napping at BSNF is part of an overall alertness program.
Based on a symposium on fatigue sponsored by the NASA Ames Research Center and the National Transportation Safety Board, BNSF was introduced to the latest information about sleep, rest, and alertness based on research done for the US Space Program.
Lindsey helped with the implementation of the napping strategy for all train and engine employees. “Research tells us that napping never replaces sleep,” says Lindsey, “but it gives people a boost.” The napping policy allows employees to take naps of 45 minutes or less during times when they would otherwise be idle while waiting in a siding or waiting for a signal to clear.
“This was a real cultural shift,” Lindsey says. “For the last 100 years, people were fired for napping. Now we are encouraging them to nap under certain conditions as part of an overall alertness strategy.”
Surveys show that, on average, BNSF crews use the napping strategy on about 15-20% of their trips. “It is not unusual for train crews to tell us they don’t have time to nap,” Lindsey says. “But when employees do have some downtime while waiting in a siding, it’s important they know they can nap if they feel fatigued.”
That’s the latest information about napping on the job. Now I think I’ll take a nap.
Article By: Robert Connor, Medical Writer