Dream, Dream, Dream

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Published: 24th October 2012
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Recently I was reading the results of the DeVono survey which inquired into the work preferences of people based in London. One of the questions which interested me is the point about sleeping at work. If you sleep without permission Ė thatís usually gross misconduct. But what about sleeping with permission? Thatís a rather more novel concept, but one that is increasingly being considered.

Sleep patterns are influenced by a number of factors. For example, Mediterranean workers have tended to get up early, and then sleep in the middle of the day when itís too hot to work. Mothers of new babies often develop sleep patterns which follow their babyís, sleeping in short bursts during the day. Perhaps the holy grail of eight hours unbroken sleep is not the right way to go.

A short sleep in the day can refresh and allow workers to carry out their duties better. I've certainly done it. For example, if Iím driving and know that Iím too tired to continue safely, I pull off and sleep for 15 minutes. Thatís all it is, but it completely refreshes me. Many people I know say the same.

More than half of those who responded to the survey believed that having napping facilities and permission to do so would improve their performance. That belief appears to be supported by medical evidence which says that workday napping encourages cognitive efficiency. Dr. David F. Dinges, who studied astronautsí sleep habits for NASA, says that mental effectiveness depends on how much sleep is accumulated over a 24-hour period. Dr Dinges argues that short periods of work, followed by a short snooze, allows people to perform better.

Many employers would run their hands wildly through their hair at this point and say thatís another bonkers idea from the HR camp and how are they ever going to meet any deadlines? But Iím a hard-nosed business owner and I regularly have short snoozes during the day because it means that I can keep focused, work better and deliver more (my output is prolific). Before we throw out the baby with the bathwater, letís just sleep on it (no pun intended).

Napping at work is not about tucking someone up with their hot water bottle and allowing them to do no work at all. Itís about power napping Ė short periods of sleep, usually no longer than a coffee break; on second thoughts, maybe can the coffee Ėit could keep people awake - and introduce chamomile tea instead.

There are two stumbling blocks. Firstly, itís not for every work place. It just wonít be suitable in some environments. Secondly, there is a trust issue. Many employers donít trust their employees and vice versa. Most employers are not Victorian mill owners and they want to do the right thing for their staff. As well as financial rewards, it takes other forms, such as trusting that if employees do sleep for 20 minutes, that they will deliver all the work they are supposed to deliver and not make excuses. If you have a workplace that will lend itself to power napping (and itís increasingly being used in some very high octane workplaces like the money markets) and you can get the balance right, you should be able to create the environment and let it run itself, with only a light hand to guide things.

Itís not all about sleeping at work though! Perhaps weíre getting a little less couch-potato-ish. The survey went on to suggest that nearly half of the respondents would choose having a gym or access to a gym as their most prized benefit. 47.5% surveyed said they would consider cycling to work if they had shower, changing facilities and bike storage areas! These are benefits that employers can introduce at relatively little cost. If it has a positive effect on productivity, itís worth exploring. Recently I was talking to a smart (and incidentally extremely successful business owner) who said the key is to think it through: ďIf I give a good female employee £25 in ash it doesn't seem like much; but if I buy her £25 worth of flowers, she is wowed!Ē

Could power-napping and giving flowers add value to your bottom line? Managing people well does just that. The UK economy is still struggling and even though there are indications of some improvement, they are so small at the moment that most of us are not awash with that feel-good factor that comes with a strong economy. If we can do some small things for our staff to encourage, motivate and show appreciation, we should do so because it helps our organisation perform better.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in the practical application of employment law as well as providing employment law training and HR services. For more information, visit our website at www.russellhrconsulting.co.uk

Russell HR Consulting offers HR support services to businesses nationwide, including Buckinghamshire (covering Aylesbury, High Wycombe, Milton Keynes, Bedford, Banbury, Northampton, Towcester and surrounding areas), Nottinghamshire (covering Chesterfield, Mansfield, Nottingham, Sheffield, Worksop and surrounding areas) and Hampshire (covering Aldershot, Basingstoke, Reading, Farnborough, Fareham, Portsmouth, Southampton and surrounding areas).

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