Every so often there's an office zeitgeist. These are decided by big firms, like Google, or Facebook, and their thrall begins to filter down into smaller entities. Take foosball for example - Google had tables to help their employees chill out, and all of a sudden every office with cool credentials around the world had one.
They became de facto - anywhere without one wasn't cool enough. Then this happened with free fruit, cookies, bars - every small business was trying to be the cool place to work, or, the new Google.
Sleeping pods may well be the "perk du jour" for start-ups in 2016. A growing number of small businesses are investing in sleep pods and areas to kip during the working day. But how is this improving the quality of people's working day, and why are businesses starting to implement this trend? More importantly, what results have businesses seen since installing sleeping areas?
Stuart Brown is director of customer experience at Teleware plc, and recently installed a sleeping area at work. There were two main reasons why Teleware decided to introduce sleeping pods. The first, as a 24/7 organisation there were occasions when employees had to work late into the night. "As some colleagues live quite some distance from our offices, we felt we had a duty of care on our part to ensure that they aren’t driving home tired in the dark.
"Secondly, we felt that there is a great deal of productivity to be gained back from allowing staff to relax and re-energise, crucially, between carrying out important and demanding tasks."
At Ideas Digital, they’re busy refurbishing their office, and are including a sleeping pod. Ross Tavendale, says how at the moment, there’s just a blacked off area in the office. "As an SME there is always a ton of work to be done. As we work in PR there may be a deadline or a product launch that requires some really late nights and early starts, so having the ability to sneak off post lunch for a 10 minute power nap is really useful and massively helps you power through the day without over indulging in coffee."
But what’s the real impact of extra sleep on businesses? Vicki Culpin, Global Dean of Research, Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School describes how there’s a growing body of scientific evidence showing the negative impact of both poor quality and poor quantity of sleep on individuals, and these effects are relevant to both personal and business life. "Memory, attention, decision making, creativity and innovative thinking, highly relevant skills in the work environment, have all been shown to be affected by poor sleep, and the effects can appear after only a few nights of poor sleep. In addition, chronic sleep restriction, over longer periods of time, have been linked to diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease."
It’s not surprising that in this busy world, more businesses than ever are looking for ways to boost their employee’s performance. Stuart Brown explained how his company wanted to "allow our colleagues to define their own work experience. It’s not unusual any more for workers to be at home yet connected to their office, nor for people to be in the office but doing personal things.
"With employees often commuting to work early to beat traffic or working later into the evening we thought it beneficial to allow employees to influence their work experience."
Ross says: "In terms of productivity, I think it's fantastic. I personally go for the odd nap if I've been doing back to back 12 hour shifts and I find that it really helps me stay focused during the day. I try to fall asleep with keys in my hand- just before I hit deep sleep I tend to drop the keys and that wakes me up. I also mix it with a little mindfulness training to relax and recharge my brain."
He goes onto explain how people use the pods at work. People aren’t restricted in how long they can use the pods for. "As we are a small business, if someone if taking the mickey it's really noticeable and easy to correct. But if you want to take the odd two hour lunch or a couple extra days of holiday it's not a problem - I think it makes everyone happier and ultimately more productive."
And with sleeker sleeping pods than ever before available, what’s to stop a business from investing in it’s staff’s forty winks? On the other hand, encouraging people to get a full night’s rest at home should perhaps be the main goal for the growing businesses. That said, you can’t say they’re not trying to find a solution to the very real problem of tiredness at work.