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Napping at Work is OK

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Time was when sleeping on the job could get you fired. If you were in the military, it could get you shot. Now we have companies, and whole industries, encouraging workers to sleep during the business day.

Yes, some employers spell out "Sleeping on the job" as a specific infraction. Some consultants tell you how to handle an employee caught sleeping on the job to see that they get the help they need to stop. Even humorous lists like Top Ten Excuses If You Get Caught Sleeping On The Job acknowledge that it is a prohibited behavior.

However, that may be changing. The Detroit News reported "daytime snoozing is an important part of 'full-spectrum fitness.'" One Connecticut metals company actively encourages napping by its employees to "give them a break or a perk, a napping area where they can unwind." Some companies allow employees to have a bed in their office.

One of the reasons for the changing attitudes towards sleeping at work (as opposed to sleeping on the job) is the growing recognition of the cost to business of sleep deficiency among employees. These costs include:

  • increased errors and accidents
  • increased absenteeism
  • increased drug use
  • increased turnover
  • higher group insurance premiums
  • decreased productivity

Among the organizations working to address the issue of sleep deficiency is the National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit organization that "promotes public understanding of sleep and sleep disorders and supports sleep-related education, research and advocacy to improve public health and safety."

Every year, the National Sleep Foundation has a National Sleep Awareness Week to "bring greater attention to (1) the importance of good sleep to health, productivity and safety, (2) the consequences of lack of sleep and poor sleep, and (3) what can be done to improve one's sleep problems."

The National Sleep Foundation's recently published annual survey reports that "on average, adults sleep 6 hours and 58 minutes per night during the workweek, about an hour less than the 8 hours recommended by sleep experts."

Internet Resources

Many things can cause a person to get less sleep than they need. Some are behavioral; some are medical. Here are some of the better sites that deal with aspects of sleep deficiency:
  • National Sleep Foundation
    Non-profit organization promoting understanding of sleep disorders.
  • The Better Sleep Council
    A non-profit organization supported by the mattress industry that is devoted to educating the public about the importance of sleep to good health and quality of life.
  • A Sleep Test
    Not intended as medical advice, this test highlights some of the sleep related problems to help you know whether to discuss them with your doctor.

If your company offers an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) as part of its benefit package, it probably provides assistance for employees with sleep problems. (For more information about EAP programs, see my feature article "Worker Depression Can Cost You Money".)

Obviously, there are benefits to the company of allowing its workers to nap at work. Remember that napping at work is very different from sleeping on the job. You do not need to create a policy that sets conditions for napping at work. It's more a case of changing your company culture to remove the stigma associated with napping. When you do that, you will find a workforce that is more alert and productive.

Do you see the value of letting your employees nap on company premises, but not on company time? Maybe you will if you just sleep on it?

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