- Napping has clear benefits such as increased alertness and decreased risk of cardiovascular issues and stroke
- Companies are starting to embrace work from home napping
- Always ensure that you separate your workspace from your nap space at home
Those new to working from home may wonder: Is it okay to take naps throughout the workday? Well, that certainly depends on your workplace, but there is some emerging science that may point to some major productivity gains from mid-day naps.
Work from home naps: What science tells us
For years we have been seeing research that shows naps to be incredibly useful in the workplace. Now that most of us are working from home, the draw to taking a mid-day time out makes even more sense. In general, the more sleep (within reason) the better for our health. Recent research from 2020 suggests that those getting less than 6 hours of sleep per day are much more likely to experience cardiovascular and mental issues as well as accidents. Other studies have drawn connections between poor sleep hygiene and increased incident of stroke. So, wherever we can find an extra wink or two is a good thing. In fact, some sleep specialists see naps as a public health measure to counteract the lack of sleep in the population which leads to fewer accidents and better cardiovascular outcomes. But what about naps in particular? Is there evidence that naps are beneficial for employees?
Studies have shown that perceived alertness is significantly higher after an afternoon nap in comparison to subjects that did not take a nap. Furthermore, there is a growing body of evidence that shows that naps affect all kinds of other things. A 2020 study in Pakistan revealed that nap breaks positively affected employee happiness, productivity, and motivation. Other research has drawn a connection between naps and long-term memory formation and daytime functioning.
Other studies have shown that there are optimal times to have naps at the workplace. For example, one study showed that napping for 25 minutes at 2PM had the greatest improvement on responsiveness on the job.
It’s not all rosy though. Research from 2021 showed that there are clear decreases in sleepiness and improvements in antioxidant defense from regular 20-minute naps. But regular 90-minute naps were associated with decreased performance and increased sleepiness. This is because of the concept of “sleep inertia” where grogginess results from long naps.
Normalizing napping in the workplace
Even before COVID-19 companies were moving towards normalizing napping at work. They even went as far as creating designated napping zones at the office. Whether this means a series of recliners for getting a rest of full-blown individual nap rooms, clearly companies have started to catch onto the productivity and health gains offered by napping. So the longtime taboo of taking a nap during work hours is starting to disappear.
Work from home naps – Should you do it?
In short, yes. Sure, the temptation to nap is stronger than ever when your comfy bedroom is 10 feet away from your desk, but you really should consider scheduling in nap time every day. The science is there to support it. But the increased flexibility that working from home brings makes the taboo of napping at work less of an issue. More and more employees are being trusted to manage their own time and are working flex hours. So you may not even need to tell your supervisor that you are taking a break for a nap. In many workplaces, as long as the work is getting done on time, then breaks are allowed in a flexible way.
Of course, you will need to be the judge of how strict your workplace is on your time. If you find you do have some leeway, consider including naps as a regular part of your day. I would even go as far as to make your calendar say “busy” during this nap period.
Sleep and work from home – What not to do
The one area you want to be careful with is blending your workspace and your sleeping space when you work from home. We highly recommend keeping your home office specific for doing work. And keep your bedroom free from doing work. This will ensure you create a firm boundary and mentally keep your personal separate from your professional.
Similarly, try to avoid taking your laptop into your bedroom. It may be comfortable, but it can needlessly blend your work and life. It’s also not too professional to appear on Zoom calls in your bed. Believe me, I see it a lot!
Conclusion: Napping is the new water break
It is time to see napping as just another tool to increase productivity and mental health in the workplace. Companies need to embrace flexible hours and employees should feel empowered to take short naps when it makes sense. Getting over the taboo associated with workplace napping won’t be easy, but it is already starting to shift due to so many people working from home and having ready access to the best place in the world to nap: the bedroom.