Workers—at least those wishing to keep their jobs—never want to be caught with their eyes closed on the job. A recent survey by Virgin Pulse partnering with Vie life found that 76 percent of employees feel tired at their jobs several times during an average work week. These are huge numbers of weary-eyed employees. As per a Harvard Medical School report, insomnia and lost sleep may be responsible for up to $63 billion dollars a year in lost productivity.
Sometime in the mid 1980’s I found myself walking down the 5th floor hallway of my employer’s 20 floor main office building looking for the medical department. This building served as the main administrative unit for a major utility in one of the nation’s largest west coast cities. As I searched for the medical department office to comply with my employer-mandated yearly physical examination, I came across a rather fascinating sign on a door in a long hallway of endless offices. The sign on the door read “Quiet Room.” Perplexed, I opened the door to the office to find a rather bleak lobby area with a sign-in sheet with names and employee numbers on a clipboard sitting on top of a table with a couple chairs around it. No receptionist was present but there was another door leading to a room with a sign that read “Respect Silence.” There was no way I wasn’t going to look in that door. Cracking the door open slowly I heard snoring and a row of about 10 small beds complete with blankets and pillows and privacy curtains between the beds. What was this room in the middle of a dynamic and active office complex I wondered?
As it turned out the Quiet Room was reserved for those feeling sick at work and others who didn’t get a good sleep the night before. It seemed to me to be a perk that was difficult to defend. Little did I know that this company was way ahead of its time in work/life science?
The general perspective back then was that this type of access to sleep at work may be subject to abuse by employees. While this may be true, there is new evidence that proves employees that are allowed to take a short nap while on the job may be the best solution to the problems of an overtired, mistake-prone inefficient and ineffective work force.
In today’s fast-paced world, with the multitude of demands for our time an ever-increasing problem, the inability to get enough sleep is almost universal. Layer on this the demands inherent with the interconnected world. The internet and smart phone technology delivering emails and text messages from bosses, clients, friends and family directly to our palms is demanding more of our time and energy. Workers are more stressed than ever to try to find the time to manage their lives. Many couples that both work and single parents must struggle shop and get dinner on the table. Concerns about a world where the 24 hour news cycle, stretches our emotional capabilities to rest and shut down our brains adequately. This translates to loss of sleep and ultimately lost productivity on the job. What would normally take an hour to accomplish for a well-rested individual may take two hours for a worker that only got 4 hours sleep the night before.
Another unexpected benefit of additional sleep is better physical and mental health for employees and consequentially lower healthcare costs. Researchers have found that a nap not only reinvigorates workers and increases concentration, but it has a tendency to reduce anxiety and depression by minimizing employee levels of cortisol, a hormone that elevates blood sugar in the body.
Modern social and medical science is legitimizing the quiet room concept in the workplace. Approved naps at work are a growing trend. If more companies embrace enable their employee’s ability to take a nap at work, then they won’t need to hide in a restroom stall or under their desks anymore to get caught up on rejuvenating and revitalizing sleep.
Many large companies are actually encouraging their employees to grab a nap for both their health and the company’s improved efficiency dynamics. Work/life concepts are taking root at companies that realize there is more to life than work. The pioneer of this concept is Google, but other companies are following to include but not limited to Zappos, Ben & Jerry’s, Cisco, Uber and the Huffington post. While this seems like a Gen X and Millennial trendy work perk, there is much more to it than this young demographic attempting to get over on their employers. While still in its infancy with only 6 percent of companies embracing nap rooms, the trend is on the rise.
Specially designed sleep pods are available from companies such as MetroNaps EnergyPod that help to create the perfect environment for grabbing a nap while at work. While not cheap, these systems are designed specifically for office environments. They include privacy visors, built-in speaker systems, Bluetooth connectivity, aromatherapy and other stress relief systems.
With life’s demands, and the modern work environment revolving around sitting in a chair most of the day staring at a screen, we require a more balanced life. That should also include not only more sleep and the ability to nap but good eating habits, regular exercise, strong relationships and a fulfilling job that offers a feeling of accomplishment.