According to a study from the Harvard Medical School, insufficiently rested employees cost U.S. companies $63 billion in productivity losses. You cannot regulate whether your employees get sufficient sleep outside of the workplace, but you can battle this statistic in one simple way — provide a "nap room" or similar place for them to catch a quick nap.
Experts have suggested that a twenty-to-thirty-minute nap during the day could increase productivity by helping employees regain concentration and focus. A NASA study found that a nap of 26 minutes could increase an employee's alertness by 54% and provide a 34% boost in productivity. Approximately 6% of employers agree and have established some form of nap room where employees can relax.
Nap rooms are well suited for tech firms, media companies, and other environments where work schedules are flexible yet demanding. In that environment, a nap can help to re-establish the creative juices necessary for problem solving or content creation. The headquarters of Google, Uber, and the Huffington Post are all good examples of office environments where nap rooms are considered vital. All three companies can require long hours on occasion, and as a result, they need to provide a place to recharge periodically without leaving the office.
Can nap rooms work in other environments as well? Other companies have shown that they can. Online shoe retailer Zappos considers rested employees as a valuable asset and backs up their belief with a nap room equipped with EnergyPod chairs designed for maximum relaxation. Ben & Jerry’s has had a nap room for over ten years and considers it an important part of the company culture. Nap rooms are also valuable for companies that require a great deal of travel and have employees suffering from jet lag.
Nap rooms only work with complete buy-in from management. If management frowns upon the concept and considers a workday nap as a sign of laziness, people will not use the nap room regardless of how nice and well equipped it is. Conversely, when nap rooms are considered part of a corporate culture, they can contribute to overall employee health and well-being, while improving productivity.
Could employees abuse a nap room? Certainly, just as a bad employee can abuse any perk. Policies on the use of the nap room can prevent abuse — for example, HubSpot uses a signup system to regulate nap room usage. Performance-based evaluation systems at work can also prevent abuse. Such a system keeps people focused more on accomplishment rather than the actual time spent doing work, and if employees accomplish their work tasks on time and do them properly, management will not care how much time they spend taking naps.
When employees are dealing with poor sleep habits at home, they are more likely to be tired and perform poorly regardless of whether a nap room exists or not. Poor sleep habits are almost a given when families are dealing with young children, especially in situations with single parents or when both spouses work. Nap rooms can be an invaluable perk to these stressed families and can make the difference between retaining and losing employees.
Theoretically, any workplace can establish a nap room for employees, although some environments will be more challenging than others. Consider an assembly line. Available napping times would have to be coordinated to keep production moving — challenging, but possible if management is committed to it and the workers consider it a useful perk.
Nap rooms may be growing in popularity, but they still have a long way to go to reach wide acceptance. As studies pile up showing the benefits of a workday snooze, nap rooms may be more likely to enter the mainstream. Perhaps in another ten years, a quick mid-day nap may be as commonplace as the morning cup of coffee.