Sleep On The Job Leads to Better Work Output

By Jordan Wilson

Sleeping on the job has a whole new meaning for ‘naptivists,’ who are calling for the introduction of a mini-siesta in the workplace, citing proof of spikes in productivity and efficiency without the need of external substances.

At Kavanagh Industries, a sheet-metal duct manufacturer based in Sydney, the 80-odd staff have the space and permission to nap if they feel like it, along with many other health benefits, including tai chi classes, massages, a gym and meditation space.


Just like the employees at Google, Valve, and iSelect Insurance, workers at Kavanagh are encouraged to use the sleep pods scattered around the gymnasium when weariness strikes.

“Half our boys had little spots in the factory where they’d curl up and nap in their break anyway. Now they have full permission and are more comfortable,” says business development manager Craig Brewin.

“The nap pods are like a ‘cone of silence.’ Even if they don’t sleep they can just shut their eyes and go to another place for a while.”

The initiative came from managing director and napper Aidan Kavanagh. Brewin says the staff perks are all part of Kavanagh’s commitment to world’s best practice.

“There’s almost no sick days or injuries, and virtually zero staff turnover. The workers understand that everyone puts in and everyone gets looked after. It creates a family environment,” he says.

To any boss who’s worried about allowing napping at work, a 15-minute nap allows your employee to work so much better. It boosts morale and worker efficiency.

It’s the workplace of the future, says health journalist and coach Thea O’Connor, who launched the ‘NapNow – work smarter, live brighter’ campaign 12 months ago, with the aim of seeing more organisations develop a ‘napping policy’.

To convince nap skeptics, O’Connor compiled an impressive list of supporting science.

“The human sleep-wake cycle causes a drop in alertness between about 2pm and 5pm in the afternoon and more dramatically in the early morning between 2am and 5am. The afternoon slump is a natural effect of our circadian rhythms, and occurs even if you’ve had a good night’s sleep, causing reduced alertness,” she says.

“Research shows it can take as little as a 10-minute shut-eye to increase alertness, improve mood and concentration and even reduce workplace accidents and errors. All with no effort – it doesn’t get easier than that.”

While the science is in, it’s the social uptake that is slow, says O’Connor.

“In non-siesta cultures like ours, napping is associated with slacking, despite the fact it has the opposite effect,” she says.

Managing director of neuroscience consultancy NeuroCapability Linda Ray is an exception to that rule, promoting “brain breaks” for her staff, including naps if necessary.

“I’ve got the bean bag, my business partner has yoga mat. I put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door and switch off for 20 minutes,” she says.

Like O’Connor, it took Ray a near burnout to turn her on to the benefits of the humble kip.

“In my mid-twenties I was a workaholic and experiencing brain fog and physical fatigue,” says the Brisbane based consultant.

Ray realised brain energy is a ‘precious resource,’ and needed looking after.

“We live in the wisdom age where people are often paid to think, and yet we aren’t paying equal attention to people’s cognitive resources, so they are restored and renewed.”

Ray encourages clients to become ‘brain friendly’ by explaining the links between recent developments in neuroscience and practices like meditation and napping. The suggestions, she admits, are often met with laughter.

This article was originally posted at the Sydney Morning Herald: My Small Business.

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