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Diversity and Inclusion strategy? Let's start with rest spaces

Smiling middle age woman sitting on a sofa

Resting at work is not the first thing that comes to mind for anyone when they think about inclusion; we hope that will change after you have read this article. Providing rest spaces at work should be part of every diversity and inclusion strategy.

A widely adopted view around inclusion is creating a workplace where you can bring your whole self to work; you are not hiding elements of who you are and you are fully able to be yourself.

There are three areas where rest spaces at work play a big role in enabling your employees to be the best they can are listed below:

  • Life circumstances - factors that make daytime rest necessary such as being a new parent or having a hidden illness

  • Sleep inequality - addressing racial and class disparities in nighttime sleep through providing a rest space at work

  • Shifting attitudes - especially among younger generations to embrace rest in the workplace

Life circumstances

Everyone at one stage of their career has needed to rest whilst at work. Whether this was taking a nap or just grabbing a quiet space. This can stem from increased work-related stress, lack of sleep due to work and personal schedules or simply just need to sit on and ponder on a solution. This also includes circumstances that may be more long term impacts such as parenthood and health issues.

Having access to a Rest Space was an absolute Godsend! In my first trimester I was naturally exhausted. Travelling and working long office hours was tough and I wasn’t ready to share my pregnancy; we had waited 6 years! On long days I could comfortably book a nap or two and no one noticed as it was part of our office culture. The relief was immeasurable both physically and psychologically. I wasn’t forced to explain myself and could easily recharge my batteries to maintain work productivity; but more importantly keep me and my baby well. I had never been a ‘napper’ before or since my first trimester but my heart went out to all the other pregnant mums who didn’t have this opportunity. How on earth did they survive? Did they have to compromise their privacy or worse their or their baby’s health? Thankfully I didn’t have to choose. - Sam who used our rest spaces to get through the first trimester of her maternity.

We don’t talk enough about the impact of pregnancy and menopause on fatigue. Many of the women I have spoken to have highlighted points in their careers where they just needed a quiet space to lie down or just have a moment to themselves but ultimately resort to sitting in a toilet cubicle getting some resemblance of rest.

We are also aware of the lack of sleep parents receive at the beginning of parenthood and throughout their child’s early life. The nights of nursing a sick child, the early morning school routine and the catching up with things after bedtime. One of the best ways to counteract sleep deprivation like this is a daytime nap.

My work has opened my eyes to the number of employees that are dealing with hidden illnesses, whether it be it long-term or short. One particular story that made me realise how important it was to have a rest space in the workplace is of a young woman I met with an autoimmune disease. They had aced through their whole life while managing their health, education, masters’ degree and graduate job. The challenge came when they were pushing

for career progression in a finance career. The nature of their challenge meant they needed a nap during the working day however the fast-paced city culture didn’t accept that.

Pushing through the dip was such a big struggle; they worked from home twice a week because having a nap made them so much more productive. Despite management being aware of the challenges, there was nowhere to rest at work and they felt like they were kissing their chances at promotion away if they napped at their desk and they knew not being able to be in the office as much as they wanted was impacting their chances. This person excelled at their job but felt they would be doing so much better if they had a place to take a 20-minute rest on their lunch breaks like they did when they worked from home. This is just one story of the many accounts of how much of an impact a rest space would have on people with the hidden illness to really bring their whole self and be the best they can at work.

Racial and social disparities

There is a body of research that highlights class and racial disparities in the amount and quality of sleep certain races and classes get at night.

The quality of rest received by different classes and ethnic groups demonstrates disparities, which highlight that the ability to get a good rest is not equally shared.

When you look at the impact of a good night's sleep on performance, well-being or mental health; it is in the best interests of employers to provide rest spaces in the workplace for all employees.

The conclusions of this research boils down to the increased long-term stress experienced more by some race groups and classes. In addition to the stress, it also contributes to limited access to good healthcare, working longer and harder to achieve basic levels of security, less downtime such as vacations, times for hobbies and access to good quality foods.

To add to this list, access to a good resting environment, good quality beds, air conditioning or heating, quiet neighbourhoods and clean air is largely skewed to a certain class and racial groups.

A space to rest in the office can help employees cope better with fatigue and lost sleep especially on the days they really need it. A rest space can also help minimise some of the stress and overload they are getting from their working environment by giving them a quiet space to reflect and meditate in the office.

An environment for the generations

Napping during the day is most commonly seen in the older generations but is now hugely valued by the younger generations entering the workforce. With more forward-thinking tech organisations being amongst the first to provide spaces to rest in their offices.

The label younger generations have received of being lazy to the upsurge in trends such a 躺平 - tǎng píng translated as ‘‘lying flat’ are all indications of a larger cultural trend; they value rest more. The concepts of working smart over working hard resonate much more amongst them. Concepts they have been exposed to much earlier in their lives thanks to the learnings shared from previous generations.

As an organisation attracting and retaining the best talent is what sets you apart. Rest spaces can help you do this AND help you bring the best out of that talent.

I like to think we often see the more experienced generations napping in public because they know better, they know napping makes them better at work and they have the confidence to ignore the stigma of napping in the workplace. As we get older the amount of sleep we get at night is reduced. This isn’t because we need more sleep, it is because we are unable to get the quality of sleep we need due to a number of factors from increased stress, pains and body aches, and shifts in our hormonal regulation. A nap during the day helps top up the sleep we are missing out on. Often as we get older we start to wake up earlier so come napping time our urge to sleep has been building up for much longer making the need to nap feel much stronger. Of course, as we get older we understand much more the benefits of taking time out.

Rest spaces in the work environment will help bring fresh energy from the younger generations as well as the experience and creativity from the older generations. It creates a much more inclusive workspace for everyone.

Providing a rest space for employees is often overlooked despite the increased attention to creating more inclusive workplaces. Action around inclusivity is often perpetuating information overload. Bombarding employees with more training, more talks, webinars and apps. Although awareness and education are beneficial, we need to provide them with the environment to put it into practice. We tell our employees to take breaks, rest, meditate yet the environment we provide makes it impossible to do any of this.

Everyone in the workplace benefits from rest spaces regardless of their life circumstances, age, gender, class or race. Creating more inclusive spaces for our most marginalised employees creates more inclusive workplaces for everyone.

Get in touch with RestSpaceLDN if you would like to learn more about our Diversity and Inclusion strategies.



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