The Snitch

Just a little of everything HR

Sleeping at work? A dream comes true!

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They have always said that everything you need to know you learn in kindergarten, and one of the biggest things I took away from my pre-school education was the need for afternoon naps.

So when I came across an online article while doing some research (read: taking a break and checking Facebook – yes, I’m back on that bandwagon) that said naps at work not only boost productivity but also reduces the risk of cardiovascular problems, I was thrilled.

Win-win!

There is actual science behind this. When a person is tired, neurons in the brain shut off, which essentially means that while your body is awake, your brain is fast asleep. Taking a quick 15-minute nap helps you recharge and get those neurons up and running again.

In fact, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley confirmed in 2010 that napping also improves the brain’s ability to retain information. They added that mid-day naps “not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness but, at a neuro-cognitive level, moves you beyond where you were before”.

But isn’t it bad enough that employees are already taking breaks for coffee and cigarettes? Will bosses really be okay with workers disappearing for 15 minutes at a time to catch up on some sleep?

Thankfully, I have friends in high places and decided to give them a call to get their take on what I hope will be the next great office fad.

Douglas Gan, founder and chief executive officer of location-based service provider ShowNearby, tells me he doesn’t mind his employees sleeping at work. The last time I visited their office for lunch, Douglas even pointed out the couch in one of the bigger offices and proudly told me, “That’s where some of the guys take naps”.

What’s more, he doesn’t limit how long they can nap for and even encourages his staff to work from home if they’re too tired to come into the office. No wonder ShowNearby was one of the recipients of Asia’s Best Employer Brand Awards this year.

“Naps can help them get rid of a tired mind and move forward,” Douglas says. “Also, I think because they appreciate the fact that they can nap, they tend to work better when they’re awake.”

However, not everyone is onboard with the idea of napping at work. Edvarcl Heng, social media manager at MediaCom, says instead of naps, his employees are allowed to take breaks as often as they like, as long as productivity isn’t affected.

“They are also equipped with Nerf guns (a type of toy gun which shoots foam bullets) and games on their Macs as an explicit nod from management that we will not frown upon fun,” Ed says.

On top of the fun and games, employees are also allowed to go out to buy titbits (another one of my favourite break-time activities), surf the Internet and play games with each other. “A worker is not an automaton. They need rest to boost their productivity,” Ed says.

While writing this blog entry, I was also multi-tasking (talking to my best friend) and found out that the only reason he hadn’t replied my messages the past hour was because he was – you guessed it – taking a nap at work. He claims to even have a sleeping bag in the office, but that’s information I’ll take with a grain of salt.

“The trick is to get the duration just right. 15 minutes to half an hour tops,” he advises, sounding like a professional nap-taker. “Anything less won’t help and too long will make you groggy when you wake up.”

But does it really help with his productivity for the rest of the day? “Yeah, definitely!” he says. “How else do you think I get through the day?”

Well, I guess it all comes down to the industry and nature of the business you are in.

Let me know which side of the fence you’re on by leaving a comment or sending me a message on Twitter (@theofficesnitch).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to have a quick talk with my bosses on setting up a designated nap area in our new office.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

September 2, 2011 at 11:23 am

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