Why Sleep Pods belong on NHS Budgets


So we have established how essential rest is to help revitalise and re-energise us during long working hours. Just a 20 minute nap has been proven to improve productivity, enhance brain performance and reduce levels of stress.


The annual NHS Wellbeing survey in 2020-21 revealed over 44% of NHS staff have reported sickness due to work related stress. Stress, burn out, exhaustion with worsening mental health; all these problems caused by a lack of rest are threatening to buckle our healthcare workers. This has only worsened since the COVID pandemic with staff sickness at an all time high and ultimately have had an effect on patient care.


Rest Space survey on healthcare workers in the UK found that 88% said they had tired lapses over the work day. Of those 47% said it makes them slow and inefficient and 10% are adamant that it has an effect on patient safety.


Sleep pods in the workplace can make all the difference.


A simple 20 minute nap in a designated Rest Space can boost morale and motivation in employees and as a result, improve the quality of services for patients. Getting rest during shifts can help reduce the number of stress related sickness leave in NHS staff which in turn can lead to improvements in efficiency and productivity in the workplace as a whole. Anxiety/stress/depression/other psychiatric illnesses is consistently the most reported reason for sickness absence, accounting for nearly 539,300 full time equivalent days lost and 19.9% of all sickness absence in January 2022. Overall, NHS staff sickness absences have cost the NHS an estimated £2.4 billion.


Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust was the first hospital to trial sleep pods in the workplace in 2018. There was an overwhelming positive response from staff that reported they provided ‘better, safer care’ when they were fresh from a nap. The pods were frequently used between midnight to 4am and noon to 4pm and each stay was between 17 minutes to 24 minutes. The Trust also mentions that the staff spends time in the pods after their shift before driving home.


Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said “Smart, forward-thinking employers are investing in staff wellbeing, and those who do tend to save money in the long run.” Investing in staff wellbeing does more than just improve staff productivity - there are also spillover benefits on brand image, staff recruitment and retention and number of sick days taken.

So what exactly is stopping the NHS from investing in rest spaces in the workplace?

The simple answer is budgeting.


Although providing sleep pods seems like the most obvious answer, unfortunately for many hospitals, it is simply not a viable option. Budget issues are the biggest obstacle to providing these Rest Spaces. There is a significant opportunity cost involved when hospitals and surgeries decide where funding is most needed: often that means staff wellbeing must lose out.


Priority is given to research and development or medical equipment innovation.


There is also a certain level of reluctance to invest in staff wellbeing - with the general view that staff must ‘get on with it’; any wellbeing measures put in place are ‘reactive’ as opposed to ‘preventative’.


But change is here, and it’s staying!


Greater awareness around staff wellbeing in recent times is breaking the traditional stigma around rest in the workplace. More and more hospitals are recognising the importance of rest and are actively addressing wellbeing issues by creating space for sleep pods. Staff in managerial roles are advocating for greater investment into staff facilities such as Rest Spaces to address the issues of staff sickness and productivity.


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