I've been wanting to write a piece on the stigma of napping at work but Sara Alger, Allison Brager, and Vincent Capaldi have done a much better job with this in their Challenging the stigma of workplace napping article published in the Sleep Research Society Journal.
The article looks at the common pushback people have when talking about napping at work. Here is a snippet from their 3 main points:
“Why Should Someone Get Paid to Sleep on the Job?”
People are already napping on the job, why not make it more of a benefit to your team and company?
"Employees already seek out covert naps, and internet tips for “sneaking in a nap at work” reveal unsanitary (restroom) and uncomfortable (car) locations as top sites for napping. If employers embraced workplace napping, this option could produce a comparatively more marked and sustained increase in productivity"
“I Don’t Have Time to Nap. I Have Too Much Work.”
Pushing through dips are counterproductive and produces lower quality work with more mistakes. Have a nap and improve your productivity
"During an average work afternoon, a disproportion of the circadian alerting signal to the rising homeostatic sleep pressure occurs, resulting in increased sleepiness and reduced alertness. These factors, along with other impacted cognitive and emotional performance metrics, resulting in decreased productivity. There is a wealth of evidence that brief daytime naps of 10–20 minutes decrease subjective sleepiness, increase objective alertness, and improve cognitive performance "
“You Must be Lazy if You Take Naps.”
Humans have been napping for as long as we can look back. In Japan its seen as a sign of working very hard.
"This statement reflects the most damaging and pervasive stigma placed upon napping. However, this argument is based largely in ignorance and companies are beginning a movement to counteract it.
Google, Uber, Nike, Cisco, Zappos, Huffington Post, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Proctor & Gamble, and Ben & Jerry’s. Not only do these companies encourage workplace naps, but they provide accommodations, such as rooms secluded for the purpose of napping, often equipped with nap pods or beds."
At [Rest Space] we have spoken to hundreds of people in the UK to understand their habits around workplace napping and found on average 80% of people think naps are great for them. When we ask these same people what other people think of them napping they say they feel they are viewed as lazy and should get fired.
The scary thing for me is the data showed that caffeine is the biggest go-to when fatigued followed by snacking.
3 things to highlight about caffeine
Caffeine makes you feel more alert but it's not likely to it improve your performance when you are tired. A number of studies have found that caffeine does not reverse the effects of sleepiness when it comes to high-risk decision making and memory consolidation. You can say it treats the sleepiness symptom but not actually the underlying impact of sleepiness.
Caffeine affects your sleep quality, even if you don’t think it doesn’t. In one of her studies, Dr Amy Bender found that an athlete was waking up to 22 times an hour after drinking coffee at night time despite them being adamant a nighttime coffee didn't affect their sleep. Caffeine’s quarter-life is 12 hrs, meaning that it can take up to 12hrs for your body to remove three-quarters of the caffeine you had.
It affects your sleep quantity; research has shown drinking caffeine even 6 hours before bed reduces your sleep time by up to one hour.
If napping is so natural for humans where did this stigma come from? The image of a shepherd or farm hand having a nap in the afternoon is ingrained in many of our minds. The prevalence of the boss napping on the sofa in the office is commonplace in many TV shows such as Mad Men. Did it come about when we started to look at productivity solely as time spent working instead of quality or creativity? For many of us, technology has replaced the jobs that required repetition and mindless tasks where time working was probably closer to measure your productivity. Now many of our jobs require more human connection, complex decision making, and creativity. These are not directly proportional to the time spent working. Let us work smarter not harder.
'The challenge is to continue the spread of information regarding the wealth of benefits of napping to combat the numerous physical, mental, and financial consequences of fatigue. The long-term plan is to normalize and implement scheduled napping during working hours.' Sara E Alger et al
Well, what can I do?
First, take 5 minutes to read Challenging the stigma of workplace napping by Sara E Alger et al
Start napping and don't worry about letting people know you nap, chances are they do too.
Lastly, management is responsible for promoting a culture of physiological safety when it comes to napping at work. If you believe in employee wellness, here are some things to think about. Many organizations are doing this very visibly by introducing nap pods and wellbeing rooms into the office. Others are allowing more flexible work schedules and running sleep and wellness webinars for the benefit of their employees, some have even explicitly stated their napping policy in their work contracts. If you are not in a position to influence it, raise it next time your employee survey comes around.