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A Little Shut-Eye, a Lot of Efficiency

August 7, 2001
Related Topics: Benefit Design and Communication, Health and Wellness, Featured Article
Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. That's the sound of employees sleeping on the job. Far from beingoffended by it, some companies approve and even actively encourage workplacenapping.

At Gould Evans Goodman Associates, employees doze in"spent tents" in a fairly secluded second-floor loft space. Each ofthe two circular tents at the Kansas City architectural firm has an air mattress,sleeping bag, flannel pillow, alarm clock, eye covering, and headphones forlistening to relaxing music.

At the 500-employee Yarde Metals, the sleep-deprivedin the Pennsylvania and New Hampshire branches use specially outfitted nap rooms.The primary and secondary metal manufacturer will feature eight napping/meetingrooms at its new Southington, Connecticut, headquarters.

These firms and dozens of others are discovering thebenefits of workplace napping. While some napping policies are rooted in healthconcerns and in
offering employees a perk, companies are also touting productivity advantages.That's because rested workers are more alert, in a better mood, and concentratebetter. All of this contributes to enhanced morale, communication, teamwork,and even performance, says William A. Anthony, author of TheArt of Napping at Work (Larson Publications, 1999).

Still, snoozing at work is viewed as a dirty littlesecret, notes Anthony, director of Boston University's Center for PsychiatricRehabilitation. He and his wife, Camille, conducted a survey in which 70 percentof more than 1,000 respondents said that they nap at work. "They're nappingfor 5 to 10 minutes at their desk, in the car, bathroom, or a locked room,"Anthony says, "and they're doing that because they get a benefit from it."He advocates dozing during work and lunch breaks, and is so sold on the benefitsof napping that he's launched an annual Workplace Napping Day on April 1.

Not everyone, of course, is surprised that employeesare snoozing at work. According to a recent National Sleep Foundation surveyof 1,004 Americans, adults sleep an average of seven hours a night on weekdays,an hour less than experts recommend. Further, the survey revealed that 40 percentof adults acknowledge that sleepiness impairs daily activities.

After an executive was seen slumped at his desk, exhaustedfrom working long hours, Gould Evans installed its 10-by-12-foot nap room. Accordingto company spokesperson Mindy Highfill, no stigma is attached to those usingit. "When it's the middle of the afternoon and I'm not getting work donebecause I'm tired, I know I'm better off taking a 10- or 15-minute nap,"she says. "Then, when I go back to work, I'm refreshed and revitalizedand able to get a lot more done."

At Yarde Metals, napping rooms are just one of manyperks. The $159 million company, which practices open-book management and featuresprofit sharing, plans to include partial child care, dog kennels, freshly roastedcoffee, fitness and massage areas, and other amenities at all its facilities.

"We can't say directly that allowing napping increasessales, but we can say without question that napping contributes to highersales, earnings, productivity, and efficiency," says company presidentCraig Yarde, who notes that the firm has "almost zero turnover."

He dismisses critics who contend that employees willabuse the napping privilege. Yarde believes that the benefits gained by demonstratingtrust in employees far outweigh any disadvantages. "The publicity we'vereceived from around the world about napping and other things indicates we havea good place to work, that people trust each other, they get paid well whenthey work hard, and that they have fun."

Workforce, August 2001, p. 17 -- SubscribeNow!

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