• Claire Farquhar

Should we introduce siestas into Australian workplaces?

Have you ever fallen asleep in class, or on your work desk? If you have, you were probably chastised by your teacher or supervisor. But there’s a slow movement igniting that celebrates this sort of behaviour, and the argument is quite compelling.

A siesta (a quick afternoon nap usually following lunch) is a cultural pastime with roots in South America, and parts of Europe. In fact, siestas are usually part of the typical workday in nations with warm climates, like Brazil and Australia.

But because we were settled by the British, Australia’s workday was moulded to mimic British behaviours set by England’s cold climate, in which workers were historically inclined to rush home early before dark, which didn’t really leave time for an afternoon snooze during the day.

We view napping as inherently lazy. This is odd given the overwhelming evidence that suggests a quick nap will improve our productivity and overall success in the workplace. Napping can increase our drive to remain positive and patient through frustrating events and reduce instances of impulsive behaviour, which can lead to a reduction in workplace accidents in particular industries.

Some progressive companies have already initiated mid-day naps for their employees. Google is among them, installing ‘energy pods’ for a quick nap in between meetings. These pods feature reclining chairs with built-in soothing music, and a gentle alarm system made up of lights and vibrations.

A fifteen to twenty-minute nap is great for increasing alertness and general motor skills, and that’s all we’d need in the typical Aussie workplace for boosts in morale and performance.

As Australians have a relatively high work ethic, admitting to feeling tired and needing a nap could be perceived as weak or lazy.

Due to this perception, we tend to reach for a fresh mug of coffee before we’ll take a quick nap. However, coffee really doesn’t compare to sleeping in terms of curing drowsiness. Although caffeine can provide you with a short-term hit, but it is also known to decrease our ability to retain information and increase levels of anxiety.

Women in particular are in need of the extra rest, according to research from a sociologist, Suzanne Bianchi. Current social patterns dictate that women carry more emotional and mental labour on top of their physical work hours than men – on average.

For a workplace to encourage their employees to enjoy a midday nap, a separate room set aside purely for this purpose is essential.

Depending on budget, a sleep pod is a great addition – otherwise, hammocks or couches will do the job. Napping should be pushed to become a part of the company’s culture so that employees aren’t fearful of repercussions from their supervisors for taking advantage of the space.

Claire is Hogwarts aficionado who will stalk your social media account to find your star sign as soon as she meets you. When she's not re-reading Harry Potter for the zillionth time or meddling in some casual witchcraft, you can find her thinking aloud on Twitter @silent_claire.

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