The Snooze Factor: Why Napping is the Performance Booster Your Employees Need

Written by Cara Moore

Cara unashamedly naps every day, in private or equally happily in plain sight! It is her superpower that makes her a positive powerhouse in business, for her family and in life. She now brings her warmth and wisdom to leading her ProNappers team on their mission to get the nation napping. A highly regarded executive and life coach, Cara holds the prestigious ICF Professional Certified Coach credential. Previously she had a professional services career as a Chartered Surveyor having graduated from Cambridge University. When Cara’s not napping, she is often to be found walking Google, her gorgeous Springer Spaniel on Wittering Beach, keeping abreast about what her three grown-up sons are up to or drinking a glass of wine with friends, usually evangelising about napping.

When talking about employee performance and wellbeing we all too often forget to consider the snooze factor. This is a fundamental oversight because sleep is serious business, and it’s costing your business hard-earned cash.

If you had a restless night, you’re not the only one. Global sleep deprivation has reached epidemic levels. A YouGov study found 79% of us don’t get the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night and 36% of working professionals have less than 6 hours of sleep per night.

In isolation, this may seem menial, after all, the less time you spend asleep the more time you can spend on the job right? This misguided notion that ‘the time on task equals productivity’ has too long plagued business. Not only is this a damaging ethos, but it is also an untrue and expensive fallacy. The reality is that it is near impossible to perform to your highest capacity when sleep deprived. A lack of sleep, and therefore energy, is a performance inhibitor and leaves employees weary; increasing distraction, irritation and mistakes. Consequently, even if employees are spending more time on task they are not achieving their performing performance potential.

When you zoom out, the true scale of this problem reveals itself. Research by European thinktank RAND found that sleep deprivation in the UK costs the economy £42 billion per year, this is the equivalent of 1.86% of our GDP. Meanwhile, the US sustained even higher loses, with sleep deprivation costing up to $411 billion a year: 2.28% of their GDP.

Beyond an economic crisis, this is an issue of wellbeing. A University of Pennsylvania study revealed underslept employees will be less satisfied with their work and are more likely to become mentally exhausted, emotionally fatigued and stressed. Not only is this devastating for the morale of the underslept individual but this is likely to have a knock-on effect for everyone they interact with, regardless of whether they have had a proper night’s sleep.

The overlooked solution

The truth is we are biologically designed to take naps. Our sleep is regulated by circadian rhythms, our urge to sleep peaks when our melatonin levels rise. This occurs in the early hours of the morning and again between 1-3pm, a phenomenon commonly referred to as The Afternoon Slump. Not only does this create an urge to sleep but it reduces our performance capacity as our body slowly begins to shut down. It is after the afternoon slump that the most productivity is lost to tiredness. This seems absurd when research by nap expert Sara Mednick shows that napping can improve performance as effectively as a full night of sleep, giving employees the energy they need to perform at their highest level throughout the afternoon.

Consequently, The National Sleep Foundation recommends a 20-minute nap in the afternoon to restore alertness and improve performance.

Alongside the tangible productivity benefits of improved alertness, concentration and decision-making;

  • Napping will contribute towards an improvement in mental health and morale of your employees as napping reduces tension and anxiety, and lifts mood and outlook.
  • Employees will be less likely to miss work due to illness.
  • Napping is low cost and easy to implement with some inspiration, education & role-modelling.
  • Napping offers a unique benefit which says masses about your employer brand.

The Secret Society of Nappers

This is all well and good, but let’s face it, napping has an image problem and is often falsely associated with laziness or slacking off. The ability to close your eyes at work and power up is a dream for many, but due to a lack of acceptance, there is still an unwelcome stigma surrounding napping across the Western world, meaning that most are forced to nap in secret.

Across the world, a secret society of nappers exist in our workplaces, and no one is talking about it. Everyone knows someone who sneaks off at lunchtime for a sleep in their car, or who takes 40 winks while the boss isn’t looking. Maybe you are that person? The ProNappers Big Nap Survey found that 84% of respondents thought it should be acceptable to nap at work, with 72% actually wanting a dedicated place to go. Yet, 42% said “I would be too embarrassed” and 48% said “There’s nowhere to go right now.”

There are quirky solutions to this problem with the most popular nap spot being the car (34%) and a staggering 23% of people sneaking off to the loo to get some shut eye, with an equal number being forced to doze at, or under, their desk. While at least these employees are finding somewhere to nap, this doesn’t go anywhere near far enough to tackle this epidemic. If we truly want to tackle sleep deprivation in the workplace we need a substantial cultural change in which napping is normalised.

While many are yet to wake up to the power of napping, tired eyes are starting to open. 16% of American companies are now incorporating napping facilities into the workplace. These include many of the most forward thinking companies in the world. Google, Huffington Post, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, and NASA, all provide dedicated napping facilities for their employees. We can all take a lesson from these companies. If flex hours, remote working, and agile work policies can all take great strides forward, there is no reason why the napping revolution won’t be next. After all, anyone who has ever napped knows the power they have to change the world.

The Nap Revolution Begins with You

Whether you’re an employer looking to get the most out of your business or an employee looking to perform at your optimum level the nap revolution begins with you. For a culture of corporate napping to truly become normalised and utilised as a tool to defeat the global sleep deprivation epidemic it needs to be accepted at the ground level and facilitated by employers. We all have a part to play in spreading this message to help create a nap positive society. It’s time we started napping at work without apology. Napping should be seen as a working right, not a luxury, or worse, a sign of laziness.

At ProNappers we believe in the power of napping and its ability to revolutionise the workplace and we are working tirelessly to make power napping at work acceptable and accessible to all.

Please join the napping revolution – contact us for help with education, inspiration, messaging, designing the ideal places to nap, nap pods and nap related products.

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