Napping is the next workplace revolution

Dying Achilles at Achilleion, Corfu. Sculptor:...

Many of us are obsessed with all things sleep. We need our rest in order to do great things. I think we can do pretty great things when we are not so rested, but no one ever says things like, “I wouldn’t have set that world record if I had gotten eight hours of sleep the night before. In fact, staying up all night the night before really helped me relax at the start of the race, which has always been an Achilles heel for me.”

The greatness in a statement like this is its inverse absurdity. We are constantly using lack of sleep as an excuse for poor performance to come. We even show up to work and tell the boss things like, “I’m just warning you ahead of time, Jerry. I didn’t get much sleep last night, so when I crunch the numbers in those spreadsheets, something may be off.”

We cover ourselves and pending, expected poor performance with our lack of sleep excuse, but we never attribute lack of sleep to reaching our goals (in spite of it). Think about it. There have been stories for as long as baseball has been around of players carousing the night before games and hitting home runs and pitching great games off of less than four hours of sleep.

The point in all this is that we humans will use anything as an excuse to explain why we did or didn’t do well on the job on any given day, at any given time and after getting enough or not enough rest, the night before.

It was very interesting to see a poll in USA Today that basically put the question to people that if napping on the job were allowed, would you take advantage of it? Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly—does anything we do as a species even get a sincere OMG anymore?) 48% said yes, 49% said no and 3% said they’re not sure.

Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See ...

Now, to me, the 3% who are not sure are just hedging their bets until they can see how to use the napping edge to their benefit or not. If they feel they either, a) use the nap as part of an excuse; or, b) use it as a reason for justifying some self-serving action (more on self-serving actions in a bit), they are ultimately unclear as to which one will provide the best mix of accolades and work getting done in respect to how much sleep they got the night before.

Personally, I have observed nappers on the job. They are very peaceful-looking. I have even covered for them when someone came into the work space to query them. I would head off the would-be solicitor and nap killer at the pass, saying things like, “Don’t bother Sadie. She’s totally in the zone and up to her ears in alligators (don’t scoff, alligators can be effective in scenarios like this provided your delivery is urgent enough) critiquing the boss’s proposal. Sadie was not a loud snorer and her back would be turned to everyone when she was napping in her chair. I was always a little envious of Sadie as she appeared so refreshed after awakening from one of her beloved naps.


The people in the camp of non-nappers I personally find annoying. These are the very same people who are yawning loudly throughout the day, complaining about how little Cassy kept them up all night and annoying the hell out of the rest of us in the process. We get that you didn’t get any sleep. Now you are just being an unwanted distraction for the rest of us, and especially because you can’t take a nap at work so we can avoid your incessant yawning and complaining.

Self-serving nappers

Back in the day I once made a proposal to institute the four-day work week in the department I was overseeing. We won’t get into particulars, but I was initially rebuffed by certain parties north of me, saying they thought the initiative would be entirely self-serving. I thought that interesting because this opinion was offered without benefit of reading the proposal in the first place. While there were certain parts of it that could have been deemed a benefit to an employee’s quality of life, ultimately the fact that a happy employee is a more productive employee engendered the success of the proposal. I was given a test period to try the four-day work week and if productivity and efficiency increases were not enjoyed it would be the death of the experiment at the completion of the trial period. The initiative unsurprisingly won out as impressive productivity and efficiency gains were realized during the trial period.

While napping on the job might be seen by higher-ups as self-serving, I think it’s a bit unfair to characterize it that way. After all, most worker bees do not have their own offices where they can close the door and nap to their heart’s content. And before you mid-level managers and C-suite types get all indignant, you really should just knock off the protestations as you know you have napped on the job occasionally; you can’t lie to me about this one.

Bags Under The Eyes

Bags Under The Eyes (Photo credit: DerrickT)

The overall success of the napping initiative in this country may rest on its implementation. Will current break rooms be outfitted to enhance the napping experience or will we just put our heads down on our desks and hands like we used to do in kindergarten? Didn’t the thought of nap time at kindergarten just make you all warm and fuzzy? It should have, especially if you can remember how raring to go you were after you woke up. Now get to napping…on three…




Go team.

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