Some Japanese companies appear to be embracing the wisdom of the old adage “sound sleep, sound mind,” by letting their workers enjoy a short snooze during office hours.
At Okuta Corp., a housing renovation firm in the city of Saitama, for example, office workers are allowed to doze off for a 15-20 -minute spell during business hours.
Adopted in 2012 to make the workplace more comfortable, the siesta-like break took root after managers set an example by taking time off themselves to sleep. Now, around 30 percent of the company’s employees have adopted the practice, and enjoy a nap three or four times a week.
A worker at the accounting department lauded the move, saying that grabbing forty winks “makes my head clear, so I make fewer mistakes than before.”
Workers who fall into a deep sleep, however, tend to feel dull when they wake up. For that reason, the company advises anyone who wants to take a nap to do so at their desk.
Some of the more enthusiastic followers of the practice bring their own pillows and blankets to work. When the phone on their desk rings, a nearby colleague will be ready to take the call.
Okuta’s quasi-siesta is also proving to be a public relations windfall.
“As the napping program has been much talked about, it is getting more and more people to know about our company,” said Yuki Sato, an administrative official at Okuta.
GMO Internet Inc., a Net business provider, also introduced workplace napping in 2012. After lunch, the main conference room at the company’s head office in Shibuya, Tokyo, is converted into a rest area. Shades are drawn over the windows, 30 collapsible beds are brought in, and soft music is played.
The makeshift napping area is open for an hour from 12.30 p.m. each weekday to any employees who feel they could use some shut-eye. Around 80 percent of the beds are occupied every day.
“After taking a nap, I can concentrate and do my work more quickly in the afternoon,” said Masafumi Takeda, an auditor at the company.
The trend of workplace napping may get a boost from a state initiative to promote sound sleep. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry recently revised its guidelines on sleeping for the first time in 11 years.
The new guideline warns that a chronic lack of sleep makes it difficult for workers to recover from fatigue, and states that a short nap of up to 30 minutes early in the afternoon is a good remedy against sleepiness.
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