My grandfather came to America from Italy where our family had worked a farm for more generations than we can even trace. Farms require a ton of work but it isn’t usually spaced out throughout the day. After rising with the sun, milking the cows, and tending to the animals there usually wasn’t much to do until the evening. That meant that after lunch the family would take a break from work and take a nap. This didn’t change when he got to America. He took a nap every day no matter what. We joked that “Nonno would take a nap even if the Pope came over.”
For whatever reason, cultural or genetic, I am a napper too. I can feel my brain starting to get foggy after lunch, even going so far as to affect my mood at times. A quick 30 minutes of sleep will bring me right back. But when I graduated college and started working in offices, I was ashamed of how tired I was. Everyone else seems to be fine without a nap so I would just power through, trying to drink enough afternoon coffee to see through the fog.
Then I started my own business and began working from home. The first thing that I relished about not coming into an office was the ability to take a quick nap. Turns out, I am not alone. A recent study found that 39 percent of people said that they needed a nap after three to four hours of work. But American corporate culture still frowns on sleeping during work hours so those people have to either deal with it or work remotely so they can nap in the comfort and anonymity of their own home.
We have heard so many reasons why people prefer to work from home but the ability to nap almost never comes up. My guess is that most people are afraid to even admit that that are doing it. But office managers and designers have to read between the lines here. If we want offices to be more accommodating to every work style, they need to support people who just want to shut their eyes for a bit in the middle of the day and recharge.
There are plenty of offices that have been proactive about napping but usually, their solution is to install nap pods. These cramped little cocoons are supposed to be a place where you can isolate yourself for a bit and get some sleep. But they often go unused. The reason is that they don’t account for the stigma that goes with sleeping while everyone else is working. If people are getting into a nap pod it is basically announcing your intention to clock-out to the entire office.
Instead, there should be much more discrete options. Rather than sleep podcasts, private meeting rooms should just have couches that pull out into beds. Co-workers would have no idea if a person is there taking an important call, working feverishly on a project, or just snoring away in restful sleep. Sure, this might not be the most efficient use of space and might worry some companies about the negative optics of encouraging people to sleep at work rather than just go home. But trust me, people like me would appreciate it.
I hear non-stop about how offices need to help people be healthier. But this conversation is usually around fitness programs or air quality or healthy snacks. For most people the most impactful thing they could do for their health is get more sleep. Plus, there are a ton of other positive benefits to napping. Tons of studies have shown that people are more productive, more creative, and more social after naps. Aren’t those exactly the kinds of things that the modern office is supposed to support?
I know it still isn’t a good look to sleep at work. But those kinds of stigmas have to end. People are already sleeping at work, but they are doing so from home while offices sit empty. We need to be open and supportive to everyone’s relationship with sleep and so offices should lead the change to normalize napping. Now if you will excuse me all of this writing is starting to wear on me. My bed is calling.
If you wonder where you stand when it comes to napping this blog has a lot of great data. One of the most surprising things to me was that the country where people take the most naps wasn’t Italy or Spain, it’s Canada!
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