Nap advocate extols benefits for weary workers
DALLAS -- For Stan Richards, sleeping on the job is a winning proposition. The chief executive of the Richards Group, well-known for keeping a peaceable kingdom in the often stressed-out advertising world, has converted a little extra space at hi...
DALLAS -- For Stan Richards, sleeping on the job is a winning proposition.
The chief executive of the Richards Group, well-known for keeping a peaceable kingdom in the often stressed-out advertising world, has converted a little extra space at his agency into four nap rooms.
"There's a lot of data that an early afternoon or midafternoon nap will increase productivity and energize a person," said Richards, showing off his sleeping pads last week. "I never worry about whether I'm going to get a fair shake from the people who work here. We get great performance out of people. These should enhance that."
Each room is about the size of a walk-in closet, with blank white walls and an ergonomic chaise longue.
A small window in the door keeps it from being too private or feeling like solitary confinement. The doors lock from the inside.
The daybeds can be shifted so that the napper's face isn't visible.
All told, they take up 168 square feet.
A growing number of companies are championing the idea of nodding off at work.
In human resources circles, the power nap is becoming known as the productivity nap.
"The U.S. Army has sleep specialists who say: 'Nap early and often,' " Richards said.
But it hasn't exactly caught on like wildfire at the Richards Group. "I've come down here on four or five occasions, and only once was any of the other rooms in use."
The inspiration for them came, fittingly enough, after a nap.
Richards recently went home for lunch, as he often does. After his bowl of soup, he uncharacteristically succumbed to 15 minutes of shut-eye.
"I woke up and felt terrific," he said. "I started digging into this: Was there something to naps, or was it just me?"
Richards found all sorts of reports extolling the virtues of short respites.
"Much of the world has a siesta in the middle of the day, but we don't," said Richards, who at 78 seems fit as a fiddle. "People can grab a quick bite to eat, take a nap and boost their productivity. At least there's a lot of information that says that's the case."
From an employer's standpoint, what's not to love?
Richards reads from a sheet used at a team meeting to promote the new sleep zone. "Napping improves mood, creativity, memory, decision-making, nocturnal sleep," he said. "Not bad for an advertising agency."
And no one needs scientific data to know we're sleep-deprived.
Among the reportedly famous nappers: Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and George W. Bush.
But Richards' hideaways aren't just about catching quick Z's. "With any organization that has more than 600 people, as we do, there are going to be people who have migraines. And when they do, they need to be in a dark, quiet place for a while."
PR staffer Greg Miller has a bird's-eye view of the comings and goings.
"The first couple of weeks, everyone was a little uneasy," said Miller, whose cubicle faces the row of respite rooms. "No one was coming to nap on their own. Three or four people would come at once: 'Well, let's all set our phone alarms, and we'll meet out here in 30 minutes.' All the doors would close at once and open at once. It was hysterical."
But lately, he said, regular singles are showing up every day around lunchtime or midafternoon.
The rooms aren't soundproof, but they're pretty darn quiet when the door is shut.
"They back up to our new studio," Miller said. "We've played around in them, and you can't hear the noise even when they're doing soundboard editing."
Miller recently used one for its intended purpose. "I commute from McKinney, and one morning after a miserable commute, I came in and decompressed for about 30 minutes."
Even the regulars aren't completely at ease yet.
"Everyone likes that one the best," he said, pointing to the room at the dead end. "They see how far away they can get from everyone else."
Richards is doing his best to remove the slacker stigma by parading down from his 12th-floor office for a snooze, cluing in staffers along the way.
"I set my iPhone to wake me up. I allow myself five minutes to fall asleep and then 15 minutes to sleep -- so a total of 20 minutes. I wake up refreshed and feeling great," he said. "I think everybody here is beginning to realize that it's not only OK, it's recommended."
So is he the Pied Piper of dozing?
"I am," he said. "And I am perfectly happy for that to be as visible as possible."