A few years ago, the concept of napping on the job may have sounded like a fire-able offense. Today, businesses are realizing that well-rested employees come with benefits. It just might be in their best interest to enable a quick snooze.
According to a 2016 study, “Why sleep matters—the economic costs of insufficient sleep," by research organization The RAND Corporation, insufficient sleep among workers costs the U.S. economy up to $411 billion and 1.23 millions workdays per year. (The study was based on survey results from 62,000 people in five countries.) Many adults simply aren't getting enough sleep. In the work world, that can translate into staff struggling to concentrate, crankiness and lowered productivity, and could contribute to longer term consequences, including chronic diseases.
Are on-the-clock power naps a solution? Across the country, studios where people can pay to nap are catering to urban workers and sleep pods and napping rooms are offering in-office sanctuaries to employees. Here's how.
Recharj in a Nap Studio
There's now a socially acceptable solution to the afternoon slump: a quick trip to a napping studio. At recharj, which calls itself “a modern meditation and power nap studio" with locations in Washington D.C. and Bethesda, Maryland, cat nappers can pay $9 to rest in a “power nap cocoon," which is an individual space with sound dampening drapery, a blanket, pillow and face mask. Lights are turned down and soft beats play to help the brain transition to sleep. “After 25 minutes, a gentle alarm goes off and they're up and out and ready to conquer the day," says Daniel Turissini, founder of recharj, which opened its first location in 2016. In addition to nap space for solo nappers, recharj also offers a variety of guided group meditation sessions.
—Daniel Turissini, founder, recharj
Prior to opening recharj, Turissini had been working long hours as a systems engineer, and began feeling burned out—and sleep deprived. After polling friends and colleagues, he learned he wasn't alone. People told him they were sneaking to their cars or even bathroom stalls to catch a few winks. He did some research and saw that some larger businesses were starting to accommodate employees with spaces for napping, and a lightbulb went off. “Why don't we economize this and put it in a large commercial office building so that these harried and exhausted business professionals can come in and take a nap whenever they like?" he thought.
Turissini says that customers have been more diverse than the stressed millennials that he expected—although he sees plenty of those. “We've seen everybody, all types of people come in whether in business suits or casual," he says. He adds that he expects nap acceptance to become more integrated into wellness packages in the future: “There's a business case to be made that your employee is your best asset. You want to invest in your best asset," he says. Even if that means they're sleeping on the job.
Building Pods for Napping
Christopher Lindholst has gotten power napping down to a science: 13 minutes and he's renewed and refreshed. As the CEO and co-founder of MetroNaps, a New York City-based business, that talent is, in fact, part of his job. MetroNaps creates the EnergyPod, a chair designed specifically for napping in the workplace. It looks a bit like a UFO landed on a recliner, and includes low lights, soft music, calming vibrations and an alarm clock. The orb on top allows privacy so the napper can make the most of 20 or 25 minutes in the chair, even if co-workers are nearby. “Effectively, we can't actually put people to sleep, but what we can do is create an environment that makes it very hard for them to stay awake and induces them to relax," says Lindholst.
The pods, which start at $12,985 (there's also a leasing option), are in hundreds of office locations across the United States, including IT companies, financial service firms, law offices, consumer goods businesses and others. He says that the commonality among MetroNaps clients is they're forward-thinking when it comes to wellness, productivity and the importance of sleep. “If I don't go to the gym today I can still come to work tomorrow and do my job. And if I eat some fast food today and don't eat a salad I'll still be able to come to work tomorrow and do my job. But if I don't get a good night's sleep tonight I'm going to be exhausted and I'm unlikely to be productive at my job tomorrow," he says. “We're out there promoting that sleep is the first pillar of health, and not somewhere later down the line."
Benefits From A to Zzzzzz
The staff at Trace Analytics, a compressed air testing laboratory in Austin, Texas, is in the throes of nap nirvana. Two EnergyPods from MetroNaps have just been delivered, and CEO David Snee has been watching a parade of employees try them out. In the three hours since installation, 18 out of 33 employees have visited the nap pods.
The buzz is a good thing. The business, after all, invested in the pods with the goal of retaining and attracting employees. Plus, Snee recently noticed that his staff seemed tired. He'd observed two people napping in their cars in the last month, and another had been stringing a hammock between two trees on the edge of the company's property. And then there's the caffeine. “I'm in finance and so I'm constantly tracking our expenses and we're spending an inordinate amount of money on coffee," he says. He hopes the EnergyPods will not only energize staff, but also help them do their jobs better. In the lab setting, he says breaks are necessary to do good work. “You can get so fixated that you have to actually draw away in order to accurately see what's in front of you," he says.
Nearly a decade ago, ice cream company Ben & Jerry's created the “DaVinci Massage and Nap Room" in its Burlington, Vermont headquarters, setting up a futon in a small room so staff could nod off. Laura Peterson, manager of public elations for Ben & Jerry's, says the idea came from a former employee, as a way to offer a break for people working long shifts. “We're a global company, so people are often here late into the night, participating in international conference calls," she says. When the room—which has a 20-minute nap rule limit—isn't being used for snoozing, it hosts other company-led wellness offerings, including chair massages, meditation, yoga and more. In many ways, says Peterson, the room is symbolic. “People use it, but it's just as important that employees know we are looking out for their overall well-being," she says.
As technology evolves, businesses expect their employees to be more accessible than ever, whether it's by phone, email, instant message or text. A quick nap during the day may help that worker get back some of the lost time—and feel energized and inspired in the process.