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3 minute read |

Keep Calm and Nap On: The Productivity Value of Sleep


A recent survey commissioned by the staffing firm Accountemps found that 74% of U.S. workers say they work while tired, with nearly one-third (31%) saying they do so very often. The costs of not getting enough sleep are high for both employers and employees. Respondents of the Accountemps survey cited the following effects of being tired at work:

  • Lack of focus or being easily distracted (52%),
  • Procrastinating more (47%),
  • Being grumpy (38%), and
  • Making more mistakes (29%).

Each of these negative consequences has a profound effect on productivity. A Harvard study has shown that corporate productivity losses in America due to lack of sleep totals $63.2 billion. Until recently, the prevailing attitude among most employers has been dismissive at best. Rather than recognize scientific wisdom proving the human body needs rest to perform at its best, corporate America has basically said “Not on my watch.” But many highly successful companies, including Google, Coca-Cola, Apple and The Huffington Post, are putting measures in place to help ease drowsiness.

Arianna Huffington, celebrated founder of The Huffington Post, is leading an effort to make nap rooms mainstream in America. One day in 2007, Huffington was at home on the phone and checking emails when she passed out and woke up in a pool of blood with a broken cheekbone. After weeks of medical tests, doctors finally came back with a simple, if disturbing, answer: she was exhausted.

Soon after, Huffington installed two nap rooms inside the newsroom at HuffPost HQ and made it clear to her employees that “walking around drained and exhausted is what should be looked down on—not taking a break to rest and recharge.”

This is the same attitude held by many highly productive nations that, for centuries, have encouraged naps among workers. Paul Nolasco, a Toyota spokesman in Japan, says, “When we see people napping during lunchtime, we think, ‘They are getting ready to put 100 percent in during the afternoon.’ Nobody frowns upon it. And no one hesitates to take one during lunchtime either.”

Cornell psychology professor James B. Maas, Ph.D., says many companies are still wary of the idea. “They say, ‘If anybody finds out we have nap rooms, they’ll think we are sleep-deprived and lazy, and the stockholders won’t like it.’ ”

Healthstat agrees with Maas’s view that this is foggy thinking. “In order to maximize productivity at work, it’s necessary to get the entire 24 hour life cycle in balance,” explains Healthstat Director of Clinical Development, Nancy Plemmons “Focusing solely on nutrition and exercise while ignoring sleep will not provide the health outcomes and productivity results you’re capable of.”

Healthstat’s proprietary wellness program places significant emphasis on rest and sleep. It’s part of the initial HRA and remains a point of focus in subsequent follow up HRAs as well as the online patient portal. If an individual claims to be abnormally tired or to have experienced bouts of exhaustion -- even if they think it’s “normal” -- it is noted in the patient’s private electronic medical record (EMR) so they clinician is able to make accurate diagnoses and prescribe treatments.

Napping policies are one way to help employees perform at their best but the bigger picture is to lead by example. If your team is always tired, it’s best to have open discussions with them and determine how to remedy the situation.

Thanks for reading. I’m signing off now for a little shuteye.

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