Should you let your employees sleep on the job?

Letting your employees nap can boost productivity and job satisfaction.

Should you let your employees sleep on the job?

Is it actually worthwhile to allow your employees to sleep at work? Some companies have even started providing sleep pods for napping at the workplace. Now, as an employer, you don’t want them to sleep the day away, but taking naps can give employees a refreshing break that lets them come back to their duties rested and ready to get more done.

More sleep, more productivity

According to the National Sleep Foundation, almost a third of employees report falling asleep or becoming very sleepy at work. It also reports that lack of sleep results in $63 billion of lost productivity each year.

“The time is overdue for corporate America to support appropriate napping in the workplace,” says Terry Cralle, RN, certified clinical sleep educator and spokeswoman for the Better Sleep Council. Research has found that a natural urge to nap in the afternoon is a remnant from early sleeping habits consisting of two sleep periods instead of one, not a consolidated eight hour stretch of sleep. When that urge comes in the middle of the work day, it can cause problems.

The stigma against daily naps for adults makes no sense, particularly when people see what happens to young children when they need naps, Cralle says. The differences between a well-rested child and a tired one are obvious, she says, but when you see an adult snapping at a co-worker, behaving unethically or being unproductive, you may not realize those are similar behaviors stemming from being sleep-deprived.

Besides lost productivity and crankiness, Cralle says liability is an important issue to consider when deciding whether to allow employees nap time. “A tired employee is at a greater risk for on-the-job accidents. Forward-thinking corporations have provided the option of sanctioned and appropriate napping in the workplace implementing onsite naps facilities.” Many successful companies encourage employees to take naps, she says.

Encouraging on-the-job napping

GovernmentAuctions.org co-founder and President Ian Aronovich says his company allows employees to take brief naps during the work day. “When employees don't get proper sleep, their productively severely suffers. Therefore, it is in every employer's interest to make sure that employees get proper sleep.”

The company allows and even encourages employees to take a 15 to 25 minute power nap to re-energize themselves, Aronovich says. “We do this because I know from my own personal experience that a quick nap can recharge creativity and help you be more productive.”

How to make it work

The National Sleep Foundation recommends 20- to 30-minute naps to boost short-term alertness, and says cool, quiet environments are best for napping.

Employers that allow their employees to nap should set up designated nap rooms or areas, says Laura Moody, an HR expert from G&A Partners. Putting together a quiet area where employees can close their eyes for up to 30 minutes can encourage them to use it.

Not all positions in a company are conducive to stepping away to take a nap, Moody says. For those employees, it’s still important to take regular breaks. She says encouraging those employees to stand up and stretch or take a short walk can help them re-energize.