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Napping at work: Recommendations from professional bodies for workplace wellbeing

Students in the common room

We have covered extensively the benefits of resting during work ranging from improving health, safety, quality, productivity, diversity, inclusivity and employee wellbeing.

“Sleep is the best form of physiologically injected venture capital you could ever wish for. When you’ve had insufficient sleep you can’t think as quickly and you’re not as creative,” Matthew Walker professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and best selling author of ‘Why We Sleep’.

Beyond these benefits there is a wealth of professional bodies that recognise, recommend and state the importance of including adequate rest spaces in organisations and ensuring the work culture is accepting of it.

You know rest facilities at work should be the standard, we are working to make that possible for many organisations. We have compiled this list of what government and professional bodies recommend regarding rest facilities at work. You can use this to build a business case for rest facilities in your organisation.

“Working night shifts has about a 25-30% higher risk of injury than working day shifts” - Public Health England Report

“Shift work-related fatigue was an important factor in accidents such as the Clapham Junction rail crash in 1988 and the Exxon Valdez oil spill. To prevent such incidents, safety-critical industries such as aviation and rail are subject to additional regulations defining appropriate working conditions and hours.” - Houses of Parliament Report

What some government and professional bodies have to say about napping and providing rest facilities at work:

‘Historically, sleeping on shifts used to be discouraged. We are working to promote taking a short nap at long breaks during night duties as it helps improve sleep patterns. To establish this, some groundwork is needed to shift the culture to accept that taking breaks and sleeping during breaks is important, but also to support this to happen. For instance, you need a place for people to sleep, planning for breaks in advance and proper handovers to ensure the continuity of care. ‘ - Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust case study

Employees should be encouraged to rest and prioritise sleep before, during and after shifts, including taking a nap before or during shifts.

Strategies to prevent and manage the effects of shift work: Rest breaks and/or naps

Providing opportunities and facilities to rest. Short naps increase alertness, counteracting the cognitive impairments of sleep deprivation 10–20 minute naps are more immediately effective, with longer naps inducing grogginess and impaired performance. Naps’ effectiveness may also be mediated by their timing in the day and by prior sleep deprivation.

In regards to providing a resting room for pregnant women: Yes, if it is ‘reasonably practicable for you to do so. You may need to provide a room for pregnant women/nursing mothers to rest or lie down.

All healthcare employers should provide all doctors with places and time to rest and sleep, access to nutritious food and drink, the tools needed to do their job and should implement the BMA’s Fatigue and Facilities charter. The leadership and boards of every organisation employing doctors should review facilities to ensure compliance with the BMA’s Fatigue and Facilities charter

Provide dedicated spaces separate from patients to enable staff to properly rest and recharge throughout their working day. This is vital for physical and mental wellbeing as well as preventing errors and mistakes.

Having appropriate facilities available is one aspect of improving rest culture. However, this

must be accompanied by supportive behaviours from departments. The report outlines what are the standard expected for good rest facilities

Organisations are increasingly aware that health, safety and wellbeing is more than just the absence of work-related disease or injury. There is also an emphasis on achieving physical, mental and social contentment amongst staff.

The organisation:

  • ensures that staff have access to welfare facilities including rest rooms, locker, and showers

  • takes a holistic view on health and safety risks and wellbeing issues related to protected characteristics including (but not limited to) age, gender, ethnicity and disability. This includes the interface between the menopause and work; domestic abuse; reasonable adjustments; age related risks to workers’ health and safety and third-party harassment.

Supporting staff:

– Provide appropriate facilities overnight to rest and nap during shifts.

– Encourage team-based approaches to provide cover and allow staff to take breaks

without interruptions.

– Offer beds, free of charge, for sleep post duty periods for staff who feel too tired to

drive home

The ‘quality’ of breaks is also important. A food and drink preparation area, a quiet rest area at a suitable temperature and with suitable seating, and the facility to talk to colleagues and to take a walk are positive points. In the case of safety-critical workers on night shift, the facility to take a short nap during a break can be especially beneficial.

Of particular importance in a workplace, context is that individuals need to be provided with the opportunity to implement learnt strategies, whether that be adequate rest periods between duties to ensure sufficient sleep, suitable facilities and the open culture to allow drivers to nap during breaks, or the system in place to be able to report fatigue

The very minimum amount of time for a short nap should be at least 10 minutes. In most cases, a nap should last up to 30 minutes. For a driver who has had adequate rest, during a standard driving shift, an occasional nap of 30 minutes should be enough to maintain a safe level of alertness.

Get in touch with RestSpaceLDN if you would like to learn more about recommendations from professional bodies for workplace wellbeing.


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