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Office nap-time: Productive or lazy?

We’ve all done it. Or at least considered it. Imagine wrapping up a lunch with your coworkers and heading back to the office. The walk from the elevator and back to your desk and all of a sudden your delicious lunch is making you feel heavy and sleepy. Mid-afternoon drowsiness has set in. But that big project. You must push through. You have a deadline. Your boss is counting on you. But you’re so sleepy and your eyes are getting heavy.. what’s a 20 minute snooze right?

But seriously, Americans are logging more hours at work than ever before. According to a report in the Minneapolis Star – Tribune, midday drowsiness actually costs American companies $18 billion annually in lost productivity. 
There is evidence that some companies are becoming more lenient and encouraging employees to nap at work.

Dozens of small medical studies have shown that napping for about 30 minutes to an hour in the early afternoon increases a person’s productivity, alertness and sometimes even their mood. According to a study from NASA, conduced by Kevin Gregory, a scientist at Silicon Valley based firm Alertness Solutions, pilots on trans pacific flights were instructed to nap for 40 minutes. Sleeping for an average of 26 mins; this little snooze boosted the pilots performance by 34% and alertness by 54%.
These statistics bring up the big question of when is it acceptable for an employee to take a snooze midday and when is it crossing the line?

Hopping across the pond to Europe, its normal to see businesses close in the early afternoon for a siesta. This is also when employees have finished a lunch block and are trying to finish work to get home, but would their work get done more efficiently and effectively if they had a 30 minute power nap?
In a tough economy, we can see how management could misconstrue midday napping as unproductive and lazy. The Wall Street Journal has reported of employees actually being suspended from work for office-napping.
But can naps actually increase productivity?

In a study conducted at Harvard University, worker burnout set in and increased at the day progressed. There were four daily practice sessions revolving around a visual task of the participants having to describe the orientation of three diagonal bars against a background on a computer screen. Allowing participants to take a 30 minute nap after the second session prevented further disorientation and a one hour nap boosted performance back to normal levels for the remaining sessions.

Some companies, such as start ups encourage their employees to nap due to the amount of time needed to get the company up and running. Nap rooms and Energy Pods are now being used by companies that want to categorize themselves as “fun, dynamic places to work”. 

Companies such as Google, AOL Huffington Post, and Cisco, not only encourage their employees to lead healthier lifestyles through diet and exercise, but provide incentives; being well rested is an added tier of health and a short term way to boost productivity. 
According to a poll performed by the National Sleep Foundation, 28% of 1000 surveyed stated that sleepiness interfered with their daily activities a few times a month.
It is unclear how the act of napping at work will be taken in the more traditional corporate environments. Perhaps this is a trend we’ll see with the effects of the economy.

Eric Abrahamson a management techniques professor of Columbia University agrees that when the economy is booming, employers most likely wont see an issue with napping at work, but in the down turn of the economy, luxuries and perks tend to disappear. 

But before you start giving the excuse to your manager that you’re nodding off to benefit the company, see what the policy is. Perhaps your organization would support office-naps. For me, I’ll have to resort to my 2:30pm venti Starbucks run. But if you’re having difficulty remaining alert at the end of the day, evaluate your night time sleep patterns. Are you getting enough exercise? Are you eating well? It is more likely you’ll get better results by altering your habits than shifting those of the company.