Sleeping on the Job

It may sound improbable, but naps--siestas, forty winks, daytime dozes--are hot. Books like The Art of Napping (Larson Publications, 1998) and Power Sleep (Villard, 1998) sold briskly. A number of companies incorporated napping facilities into their workplaces, and some airlines and trucking companies started allowing supervised siestas.

But anyone who thinks these initiatives represent a kinder, gentler corporate response to employees' needs should wake up and smell the coffee. They're strictly about the bottom line: reduced productivity due to sleep deprivation is estimated to cost U.S. businesses $18 billion a year.

So the sudden vogue for dozing is not an endorsement of an unhurried OId World lifestyle, but a very American effort to get employees to work harder and more productively once they wake up (power sleep, indeed). The supervisors who are instituting the new napping policies relied on studies that show greater alertness, faster reaction times, better problem-solving and increased creativity in well-rested workers.

The experience of one California consulting firm suggests yet another economic benefit of allowing workers to sleep on the job. Since it set up a nap room in 1996, in two years its expenditures on caffeinated soda and coffee have dropped 30 percent.

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