In most workplaces, sleeping on the job can get you fired. But according to recent news reports and commentaries, a growing number of employers are not only permitting employees to take naps but actually encouraging the practice. Some are even providing a designated area, complete with couches, blankets, nature cds and privacy screens. Those employers argue that tired employees are less productive, and allowing workers to take a 15-20 minute “power nap” actually increases their productivity and cuts down on absenteeism resulting from fatigue and related heath issues, as well as reducing on-the-job accidents.

BostonUniversity clinical psychologist William A. Anthony, PhD, has written a book on the topic, The Art of Napping at Work. In his book, Anthony suggests that Americans are sleep-deprived, not due to irresponsible habits but rather as a result of the expanding demands of their jobs, lengthy commutes, and household responsibilities. According to a recent ABC news report, the typical American needs 8 hours of sleep per night, but only gets about 6.7. In a poll conducted in late 2007 by the National Sleep Foundation, a surprising one-third of those surveyed admitted having fallen asleep at work at least once in the last month. In a earlier survey by the same group, more than 51% of workers surveyed admitted that sleepiness on the job was interfering with their productivity. According to a study by CornellUniversity, 40% of workers are sneaking naps at their desks or in their cars during lunch.

Is allowing employees to take an afternoon nap the answer? For some companies, perhaps. But before embarking on such a policy, you should consider the costs and logistics of administering a “nap” program, how to prevent the policy from being abused, and whether naps would be “on company time” or “off the clock.”

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