Sleeping on the job
Tuesday, 7 September, 2004
By Denise Winterman, BBC News Online Magazine
Most of us come up with our best ideas when we are about to nod off, says a study. So is it time the boss put beds in the workplace?
With longer working hours and shrinking lunch breaks, is it any surprise that stressed British workers find their bed a more creative space than the office?
Some 30% of people have their best ideas in bed compared to just 11% who have them at their desk, according to research by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA).
It is calling for companies to install beds in the workplace, in an attempt to change the way we work for the better.
According to the authors of The Art of Napping At Work, we live a "napaphobic culture", but attitudes are changing and the bed could soon become part of the office furniture.
Bill and Camille Anthony say workers are "nap ready" and often sneak a snooze anyway. Making naps official is a win-win situation for all.
"Napping secretly in the workplace is already here but napping openly with the employer's permission is a coming trend," says Bill, a professor at Boston University.
"Napping is a natural, no-cost way to increase worker productivity. Companies can no longer keep their eyes closed to the epidemic of sleepiness on the job."
Richard Wiseman, a psychology professor, says the research shows our minds are often most creative when we relax and bosses should alter working habits to aid creativity.
"In our dreams we produce unusual combinations of ideas that can seem surreal, but every once in a while result in an amazingly creative solution to an important problem," he says.
But for a daytime nap to really work workers need to be "comfortable psychologically" with snoozing at work and know they are doing themselves and their company a favour, says Professor Anthony. So, the introduction of beds or designated areas for naps in the office would help workers feel more able to rest and recharge their minds.
According to the Director of the Surrey-based Sleep Research Centre, Derk-Jan Dijk, introducing beds at work is not an unrealistic proposal.
"Having beds at work should not be dismissed, there are situations where they could be very beneficial," he says.
"But really it is down to how the naps are regulated. Some people need longer naps than others, but if you sleep too long and too deep it can take a while to become fully alert again."
But for the Sleep Council the issue is not how to fit naps into the working day, but how to fit work around sleep.
It says the nine-to-five culture does not fit into the natural sleeping pattern of the human race and Britain's bosses need to introduce a more "sleep friendly" working day.
It carried out a two-year, world-wide internet survey into global sleeping habits and found the majority of people either regard themselves as working best in the evening (38%) or in the morning (41%).
Dr Chris Idzikowski, who conducted the research, says that if the working day was made more flexible to allow for people's differing sleep patterns companies would reap the rewards.
"By showing a preference for morning or evening work, the implication is that the majority are not fully alert in the middle of the day," he says.
If beds were installed in the workplace people could rest and make up the time elsewhere in the day. It would allow companies to extend office hours beyond the traditional nine-to-five, he adds.
"Shops and offices could open at 5am and close at 9pm without any difficulties."
Some companies are embracing the idea and building "nap rooms" and "nap tents" for employees.
Accountancy firm Deloitte Consulting in Pittsburgh, America, has designed a special "napnasiums" for the comfort of their employees.
It is open to any employee needing rest and has recliners and blinds.
The company made Fortune Magazine's list of the best 100 US companies to work for last year, so its enlightened attitude to work naps seems to be reaping rewards.
But if your boss refuses to sanction official snoozes, a company in the US has come up with a solution.
Weary workers in New York can take a nap during the day in specially-designed pods located in the Empire State Building, courtesy of MetroNaps.
For $14 (£7.85) you can snooze for 20 minutes in a pod, after which it gently vibrates to wake you and lemon-scented hand towels are provided to freshen you up for your return to work.
You can even order lunch to be waiting for you when you wake.
Top napping tips for work[list][*]Announce your nap to your colleagues [*]Use "equipment" that will make your nap pleasurable [*]Use an alarm to ensure you wake up on time [*]Find a secret spot so you will not be awakened prematurely [*]Have a napping routine[/list:u]Source: Art of Napping at Work
Legendary work nappers[list][*]Napoleon [*]President Kennedy [*]Winston Churchill [*]Thomas Edison [*]Leonardo Da Vinci [*]Albert Einstein[/list:u]