June 20 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Being caught sleeping on the job is generally a cause for discipline, dismissal or disapproval, but an NHS Online ‘life coaching expert’ has suggested overworked staff should keep a pillow under their desk in case they need a snooze at work. STACIA BRIGGS finds out if power naps boost productivity.
In the interest of research, I decided to take Jayne Morris’ advice and take a power nap under my desk to see if I’d feel a surge of productivity after 15 minutes of shut-eye.
I was prepared: well, I had a pillow. And I’d removed some archaeological remnants from Lunches Past from under my desk, a mission which also netted me £1.57 in loose change, a Christmas bauble and a pencil sharpener.
Under my desk – which is quite big and offers quite a large space for a sleepy worker to take a quick snooze – I struggle to forget that I am lying on the floor in my office.
On the plus side, no one whatsoever has noticed that I’ve slumped to the ground and am apparently unconscious: this in itself is a bit unsettling. How long could I lie here before anyone noticed? (Answer: until newsdesk realise I haven’t filed this feature)
I notice the underside of my chair, which I learn was manufactured on April 8 2001. Someone has signed the underside of the chipboard that makes up my desk. There is a boiled sweet welded to the carpet frighteningly close to my left ear. I am, you will deduce, finding it difficult to relax.
After five minutes, I start to panic that I can’t fall asleep. In fact, I feel like I have been buried alive in a carpeted tomb – it’s not remotely relaxing or energising. My back hurts. It smells a bit unpleasant under my desk. I don’t like it.
Fifteen minutes in and I am desperate to get back to work and escape from my self-imposed exile under my desk. I have rarely been so happy to be upright and actually do feel vaguely energised, although surely through relief rather than relaxation.
There are some days when even an industrial vat of strong coffee will fail to energise you in the office, when you wish the boardroom was a bedroom and you could just lie down for a swift spot of shut-eye.
Employers, however, tend to take a dim view of napping at work, treating sleep in the same way they’d treat surfing the internet: as something employees should be doing in their own time.
But some of the biggest names in business are beginning to cotton on to the fact that a well-rested staff member can be more productive – figures suggest that tired staff cost companies $150 billion a year in lost productivity and NASA recently revealed that a 26-minute midday nap can boost performance by as much as 34 per cent.
While companies such as Google, Nike and Proctor and Gamble introduce sleep pods for staff, the rest of the world is groggily awakening to news that napping at work is something to celebrate rather than a cause for sacking.
* Check with your employer before you clamber underneath your desk with a teddy bear and a pillow – some companies may allow napping – most won’t. Consult your human resources department before you nod off.
* If your boss is dubious about the benefits of napping, tell them that agreeing to you taking a snooze is an investment in the health of the company and its employees. Be prepared for laughter.
* Avoid caffeine for four to five hours beforehand and set an alarm to wake you up 20 to 30 minutes after you drop off – you will find it easier to sleep knowing you’ll definitely be woken up later.
* Do your best to create an environment that’s quiet and dark. If you don’t have a chair, try sleeping on the floor: Jayne Morris suggests stashing a pillow behind your desk.
* An ideal pre-nap drink is hot milk and prime nap-time is during the hours between 1pm and 3pm when most of us suffer a mini-dip in energy.
* Don’t over-do it: research shows that 10 minute power naps produce the most benefit in terms of reduced sleepiness and enhanced cognitive performance: anything over 30 minutes and you’re likely to wake up feeling groggier than before.
NHS Online’s life coaching expert Jayne Morris this week came under fire for suggesting that staff should grab a 20 minute ‘power nap’ in the middle of the working day, keeping a pillow and blanket to hand should the urge to doze strike.
She said naps would decrease stress, enable tired brains to “clear thought clutter and boost creativity”, be beneficial to heart health and cell repair, adding that 20 minutes’ sleep during the day would lower stress hormone levels and super-charge an employee’s stamina.
“I worked in Japan for three years where burnout is a massive problem,” she said, “over there they dim all the lights at lunchtime in some companies and let everyone have a little snooze.
“In Spain they have siestas, though that’s to do with the weather. If we are shifting to longer working hours then you either manage it better or support it better.
An Aviva spokesman said: “The thought of having a 20 minute power nap at work is nice idea but not necessarily practical in an office environment. However we do encourage our staff to take regular breaks away from their desks and have break-out areas for them to use as they wish. We also actively support their well-being within the workplace.”
John Bultitude, from Norwich Theatre Royal, said: “Because of what we do, Norwich Theatre Royal operates at unsocial hours both for those on stage and behind-the-scenes, so power-napping already goes on.
“Actors and performers are known for grabbing 40 winks in between their time on stage. A lot of our dressing rooms have sofas so they can stretch out and have a well-earned power nap or a quiet snooze in front of the TV.
“Our technicians and stage crew also sometimes grab a quick nap on the run. The get-in or get-out of a set can run well into the early hours – and beyond – so it’s not unusual to find colleagues lying down in the Green Room having a catnap during their breaks.
“Power-napping boosting productivity is not a revelation to us although everyone remains 100 per cent focused while a performance is going on. There is no chance of the lighting operator lying down or a sound operator slumbering.”
Gerry Bucke, general manager at Adrian Flux Insurance Services based near King’s Lynn, said: “Most of our staff work in busy call centres so I’m not sure they’d have much luck in getting any sleep under their desks!
“Over the years, a number of studies have suggested that taking a power nap can improve your concentration, and we’ve no objection to staff having a few minutes’ shut-eye during one of their breaks in one of our rest areas - as long as they set an alarm!
“But there’s plenty to do here - we have free internet access, a games room and large gardens where people can relax, so there are other ways staff can take a break from work to recharge their batteries.”
“Sleep is one of the most important things our bodies need, yet often what we cut out when we get caught burning the candle both ends. If you find yourself fighting fatigue during the day, try taking a power nap.”
Although Nike-branded sleeping pods may be the ideal place to steal 40 winks, Ms Morris believes that with a little creativity, naps can be grabbed “almost any time, any place”.
“Keep a pillow under your desk or a blanket in your car. Release any inner gremlins telling you that you are lazy for napping. Remind yourself of the benefits,” she said.
If it’s difficult to sleep easily at your desk, Ms Morris suggests the use of earplugs and eye masks and advises that blinds are drawn to create a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere.
Not everyone, however, has Ms Morris’ laid-back attitude to sleeping on the job.
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “When there is serious pressure on health budgets, taxpayers will find it astonishing that NHS Online is spending money on a ‘life coach’.
“It is all the more absurd that the coach is suggesting that office workers sleep on the job. If they’re taking that advice seriously, it’s little wonder the economy is stagnating.”
Clematis armandii is a great favourite of mine but, it has its drawbacks. First of all, it is not the hardiest member of its tribe, and being evergreen, once its foliage becomes frost damaged this becomes a permanent feature.