Traditionally, sleeping on the job could get you fired, however, research from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has shown that daily naps of up to thirty minutes could actually make for a more productive workforce. After all, throughout the world, particularly in hotter climates, workers are actively encouraged to have a daily siesta, so why shouldn’t it work in the UK too?
Tired workers are costing companies millions
A survey by Rand Europe suggests that a lack of sleep among workers could be costing UK businesses as much as £40 billion per year in lost productivity.
In Mediterranean countries, such as Spain, Italy, and Greece, the afternoon siesta has been a habit that people have enjoyed for hundreds of years. Typically, these naps meant a break in working hours during the afternoon of two to four hours with workers making up the difference later in the day. However, even this may be under threat in Spain from new employment regulations limiting how late employees can work.
In other countries, such as China, where people work tend to work very long days, employers now recommend that workers take a nap after lunch to improve employee performance later in the day. Some businesses have gone as far as installing sleeping quarters so workers spend more time at work. Falling asleep in Japan at your desk or on public transport can be seen as the mark of a hard worker.
In the western world, technology and software companies are recognising the benefits of allowing workers to sleep on the job with the likes of Google installing purpose-built sleeping pods to help employees recharge their batteries ready for the next task at hand.
Better sleep means better work
It’s been long known that lack of sleep impacts our productivity and, as a result, impairs employee performance. Early on in the 19th Century, the working day was cut from nine hours to eight, as employers began to notice that working any longer had a detrimental effect on performance, as well as workplace motivation.
When people don’t get enough sleep, they have difficulty making decisions and problem-solving. One study of 4,000 workers in the US found that those workers that didn’t get enough sleep spent nearly three times as much of their day working on time management issues as those who got enough sleep. They were also less motivated and had difficulty focusing and experienced poor memory.
It works both ways too. Just as lack of sleep impairs workplace performance, getting more hours in improves reaction time, decision-making, creative thinking and problem-solving. Significantly, this means that those who have forty winks at work make fewer errors throughout the working day, so it makes good business sense that employers encourage workers to do exactly that.
While attitudes are changing, in the UK, sleeping on the job in many companies can still be cause for dismissal. If your employer won’t let you nap, it’s worth remembering that simply taking a break and relaxing or meditating for 20 minutes can be beneficial, especially if you’ve been working on a particularly detailed task, such as spreadsheet work.