Nap Pods: Why Some Companies Are Letting Workers Sleep on the Job

Anyone familiar with a 9-to-5 schedule is also likely familiar with the 3 p.m. slump. That daily midday breaking point when your “I’m going to get so much done today” stream of early morning motivation has long since subsided into sugar crash-fueled melancholy and a blurry computer screen. When this moment in the workday comes, which it always inevitably does, all you want is to power off your computer, lay your head on your desk, and go to sleep without repercussions. Well, what if you could not only take said cat nap, but were actively encouraged by your boss to do so?

MetroNaps Flickr

(Photo Credit: Sellon Kirjasto/Flickr)

It’s a possibility that might be closer to reality than you think. As experts continue to warn of the myriad of problems caused by sleep deprivation, including some very real potential health risks and decreases in productivity, more and more employers have been expanding the scope of employee wellness and nutrition programs to include a simple but very valuable category of health: sleep.

Enter the sleep (or “nap”) pod. A unique approaches being implemented by companies ranging from Google to NASA, The Jetsons-like devices popping up in workplaces around the country are essentially sleek, shiny, capsule-looking chairs that function as a personal mobile bedroom in the middle of the office for lagging employees who’d prefer a short snooze to a bad cup of cafeteria coffee.

By setting a 20-minute timer inside one of the futuristic pods, which often block out noise and light by way of a hooded dome, you can have the very definition of a power nap right in the middle of your work day. The ultimate goal? To use naps to increase productivity and (and presumably improve overall health) among workers.

Pod People

Employees of all types and sizes have incorporated some type of sleeping pods into the office environment, including major companies like Facebook and Procter & Gamble

Instead of grabbing a gourmet chai latte from the Googleplex cafeteria when the 3 p.m. slump hits, Google employees, for example, can refuel in an “EnergyPod,” a sleek, futuristic sleeping chair created by MetroNaps, a New York-based company that’s been in the pod production game since 2003. 

The EnergyPod looks like a super-fancy, space-age version of an airplane chair, ergonomically designed, reclines to keep the sleeper’s legs elevated, and is outfitted with an aforementioned hooded dome, or, “privacy visor,” to help block out sights and sounds from the outside world. 

Other bells and whistles include a built-in speaker that can funnel calming music accompanied by vibrations, and “timed waking,” which users can set to custom or pre-programmed 20-minute napping sessions. 

Sleep Stats 

While they might sound (and certainly look) silly, the goal behind the pods is a worthwhile one. According to an extensive sleep study led by Harvard Medical School researcher Ronald C. Kessler, Ph.D. in 2011, for example, insomnia costs the average American worker 11.3 days and $2,280 in “lost productivity” each year. And as a nation, our collective losses are fairly mind-blowing: $63.2 billion (252.7 days) annually. 

“We were shocked by the enormous impact insomnia has on the average person’s life,” Kessler said. “In an information-based economy, it’s difficult to find a condition that has a greater effect on productivity.”

“I think people are staying up late more,” MetroNaps CEO Christopher Lindholst told Sleep Review last year. “And frankly, humans, we’re really good at shortchanging sleep,” he continued. “That’s often the thing that comes last … We watch that movie we shouldn’t and we do some work late at night, but sleep gets sacrificed quite a lot … And general awareness of sleep is growing at the same time.” 

Pod Producers

In addition to the EnergyPod, which they’ve dubbed the “first chair designed exclusively for power napping in the work place,” MetroNaps offers a handful of other types of pods priced between $8,000 and $13,000. Along with Google, the company counts NASA, Cisco, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Cleveland Indians, Huffington Post, and Procter & Gamble among its clients, which reportedly span four continents and 20 countries. 

While MetroNaps is probably the most visible (and reportedly the first) pod manufacturer, a handful of companies both here and abroad are taking advantage of corporate culture’s increasing awareness of the link between sleep and higher-quality work, including Hammacher Schlemmer in Ohio, Powernaps in Texas, and the London-based Podtime, whose client list boasts Facebook, Nestle, and the London Stock Exchange, according to the company’s website.

Many of the companies have successfully marketed the pods to airports, universities and libraries as well as workplaces and some offer additional sleep-related services and products. Powernaps has placed a “power naps studio” in Fort Worth, in addition to “in-house installations.” Hammacher Schlemmer sells everything from alien head-shaped noise- and light-blocking pillows to a $30,000 “Tranquility Pod,” which lulls occupants to sleep with a vibrating memory foam mattress and a “pulse sensor” that syncs the heart rate with 50 “mind-calming” LED lights. 

A 20-minute nap can increase alertness by 30 percent, according to Lindholst, and companies both big and small are prepared to shell out more than $10,000 for a glorified bed (but probably not a desk) for employees, sleep pods might very well be on their way to becoming a staple of employee benefit packages faster than you can say 401K.

Tell Us What You Think 

Have you (or would you) take advantage of a nap room or sleeping pod at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.