It can be a challenge for managers to keep employees alert, energized and productive during a long workweek. Scores of companies offer perks like coffee bars, snacks, and game rooms to keep hungry or bored staff members motivated. But research indicates that a more fundamental problem may be behind lagging productivity: a sleeplessness crisis that affects up to one in three American workers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a third of adults in the U.S. report that they don’t get the recommended amount of sleep. Lack of sleep leads not only to poor performance on the job but also to chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, depression, heart disease and obesity. These conditions affect workers’ quality of life and drive up the cost of health insurance.
One way that employers can support sleep awareness is by creating a nap-friendly workplace. Research shows it’s an investment that can pay huge dividends. There are numerous benefits: An Academic Medicine study found that a mid-day nap can decrease attention failures by 30%; Research in the Journal of Sleep indicates that a short nap, 15-20 minutes in length, can improve memory; a Harvard study indicated long term health benefits to regular napping; and a recent USC study confirms that being well-rested not only leads to better health and receptivity to learning — people who get the rest they need are happier and more satisfied overall.
So, how can managers create a nap-friendly workplace and improve business performance by helping employees get the rest they need?
1. Offer basic sleep education
The research cited by the CDC and other public health organizations is clear: Sleep is an essential component of wellness. But it can be challenging to discuss the benefits of napping when most people know very little about sleep. So a good place to start is with some basic education on the importance of rest and how to “hack” sleep on a daily basis such as the written materials by Dr. Alex Pang, author of Rest.
2. Create a dedicated rest area
Encouraging napping is a good idea, but for it to be meaningful really requires employers to create a sanctuary where it’s acceptable, intended and indeed encouraged to rest and recharge. If the toilets are the only place employees feel it is acceptable to close their eyes, then promoting naps will seem empty. There are a range of options for designing a napping facility, including the use of recliners, massage chairs, relaxation apps and more. Napping pods designed to facilitate a brief rest session are just one example and include the ability to wake the user so they can return to work recharged.
3. Track, promote and incentivize
The only way to know you are having an impact is to track it. Equipment monitoring systems such as those operated by Restworks allow managers to track their napping facility, nudge appropriate utilization through status indicators, and celebrate milestones for the group through useful statistics. These also allow for individual and group incentives, like the one introduced in 2016 by Aetna, that rolled out a $500 reward for employees who participated in a sleep program and logged sufficient rest.
There’s a reason some of the most successful companies on the planet give their employees a place to take a nap. They know that after a short rest, team members return to work refreshed and ready to take on new challenges. For managers who are looking at ways to create an enduring competitive advantage, designing a nap-friendly workplace is a relatively easy initiative.
To maximize the benefits of rest facilities, broader sleep awareness also needs to be supported. Encouraging employees to get the rest they need and making sure they understand the links between sleep and wellness is good for staff — and great for business.
Author: Christopher Lindholst is CEO and Co-founder of MetroNaps. A pioneer in corporate fatigue management solutions since 2003, Christopher has built a client base and established partnerships on four continents. Christopher is a frequent speaker at corporations and conferences, where he talks about implementing sleep into corporate well-being programs. An avid napper, having amassed nearly 5,000 naps over his 13-year sleep career, Christopher takes a 14-minute nap every workday afternoon. Christopher obtained a Bachelor’s at Wesleyan University and a Masters in International Business at the Columbia University Business School.