- The Washington Times - Monday, August 12, 2002

Some workplaces don't frown upon sleeping on the job they even encourage it.
A growing number of companies nationwide, including several locally, offer nap rooms for sluggish employees.
"It makes sense because your body is physiologically set to dip in the midday, and a nap can leave you more clear-headed and fend off illnesses that are brought about by stress," said Tom DeLuca, president and chief executive officer of DeLuca Enterprises, an Orlando, Fla., firm that teaches workers how to take power naps.
Work performance improves with short power naps, according to a Harvard study published last month. Sleepy employees cost businesses $18 billion in lost productivity, according to a 1997 National Sleep Foundation study.
The 30 workers at Matrix Group International Inc. in Alexandria can go to the lounge and catch a few Z's on the beanbag chair and couch, said Christine Carroll, director of marketing.
"It's not being used as much as it was before, when workers were pulling 20-hour shifts and working around the clock," she said, adding that the nap room is less private since the software development company's recent move.
"There is more traffic there because the lounge connects to the kitchen," but people can rest there when they need to, she said.
The Society for Human Resource Management, which studies workplace trends, has a similar policy.
The association offers an all-purpose room for 200 employees at its Alexandria office, spokeswoman Kristin Bowl said. "We have a room for people to go to that's not a nap room per se, but more a private area where employees can nap, have time alone or even pump breast milk."
Several employees each day stretch out on the long couch, she said. "We try to make the room a comfortable place where workers can relax for a few minutes."
The Harvard research found that subjects performed at higher levels when they were allowed to take quick naps instead of working continuously through the day.
"It's like an in box. When a computer reaches its capacity, it moves information to storage," Robert Strickgold, author of the study, told the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee. "Burnout is your brain telling you that if you keep taking information in, you're going to lose the information you initially had."
Though a stigma still is attached to "resting your eyes" on the job, Mr. DeLuca said the nap-room policy is gaining support. "It's definitely growing, and companies are more open to the idea now than they were five years ago because they need it," Mr. DeLuca said.
The informal perk is low in importance for most companies, Ms. Bowl said.
In a 2001 association survey, less than 1 percent of the 550 companies responding said they offered nap rooms.
Watson Wyatt Worldwide is one company that does. The global consulting firm, which focuses on human capital and financial management, offers its more than 600 employees a chance to rest in its D.C. headquarters, said facility manager Mike Parrish.
"It was a shock when I first came here, since where I last worked had no such policy, but I can see the need for it," he said.
Employees may rest in available offices or even the conference room, he said.
"It's an unofficial nap room that employees can go to when they're not feeling well and lie down," he said, "but it's more for workers who are sick and need to rest a minute."
Mr. Parrish said quilts, pillows and three rooms are available to anyone needing a quick rest. "We would rather have a worker take a rest and be able to get back to work than have to quit working for the day and go home," he said.
Mr. Parrish said the rooms are used by a small number of employees every two to three months.
Limited space and negative views on napping keep most companies from such a policy, Mr. DeLuca said.
"For a company with 500 employees, a nap room with four cots may be troublesome," he said. "It's also a hard sell because many companies think sleeping on the job inherently means laziness, and they are very paranoid about allowing it."
A 2002 National Sleep Foundation poll reported that a quarter of Americans, 47 million, said they didn't receive the minimum sleep requirement of seven to nine hours each night.
Nearly two in five of the respondents said lack of sleep affected their daily work and activities.
"People who don't get enough sleep are more prone to be impatient, to make mistakes and to be sluggish during the day," foundation spokeswoman Marcia Stein said.
Mr. DeLuca said that workers should keep naps short, between 15 and 30 minutes. He added that falling into a deep sleep would leave nappers feeling groggy and disoriented.
"That takes away from what you're trying to accomplish and is just a bad thing to do at work."

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