[Note: this was a Toastmasters speech I gave last year, slightly revised for your reading pleasure.]
It has long been suspected, but scientific studies prove it: Sleeping around the office is a great way to make it to the top.
If you don’t believe me, consider this: A study released by the National Sleep Foundation says that taking afternoon naps increases your productivity.
A Survey of American workers supports this finding with 40% reporting that daytime drowsiness prevents them from doing their best work.
But Napping doesn’t just improve our productivity, it may even save our lives.
Consider this: Fatigue has widely been cited as a contributing factor to both the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents. The Pepsi syndrome? I think not. The ambien syndrome, maybe… You know a few well-placed nap rooms at our nuclear facilities could make the difference between active workers and radioactive workers.
Sleep deprivation has also been cited as a contributing factor to numerous railroad accidents. Engineers need to spend less time on their feet and more time on their… caboose.
There are many studies that show a marked loss of alertness in the afternoon. Did you know that more accidents occur between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. than in any other 2 hour span? And when you consider how many drunk people are bumping into things at 2 am on Saturday night, that’s a truly sobering thought.
So on one the hand we have the possibility of sleepy employees and train derailments and nuclear destruction, and on the other hand we have alert employees and an attentive, productive workforce. And yet Nap enthusiasts still find employer resistance to catching a little cubicle snooze. Why?
Why why, why?
Because the poor, sweet, gentle, nap has been unfairly stigmatized as the luxury of the rich or the indulgence of the lazy. This was probably epitomized in the classic Seinfeld episode when George Costanza worked so hard to conceal his dirty little napping secret: A nap chamber custom built into his desk. But as dumb and lazy as George Costanza was, he knew enough to avoid the stigma of the nap!
Unfortunately, the taint of napping in the workplace is all too real, so nap rooms may not soon be coming to an office near you.
But fear not fellow dozers, nodders, sleepers, and snoozers, all is not lost! Recent research in the field of creativity suggests that a mere BREAK in the “attentive activity” can lead to clearer, more creative thinking.
Scientists who have spent millions of dollars and years of their lives studying the phenomenon call this an “incubation hypothesis.” You and I call it “taking a break.”
According to the “incubation” hypothesis, it is best if we incubate once or twice a day for a period of 10-20 minutes and we should engage in no activity during this incubation. The incubations’ only function is to divert our attention from work, thus releasing our minds. We are thereby enabled to freshly engage in our tasks and do better creative problem solving when we return from the “incubation”.
I think Archimedes would wholeheartedly agree with the incubation hypothesis. In Greek probably, but he’d agree.
You remember the story of Archimedes? Eureka! Archimedes made a major scientific discovery while soaking in the tub. It’s suggested that Isaac Newton discovered gravity while lounging under an apple tree. And Frederick Banting, who dreamed how insulin could be used to control diabetes – and won the Nobel prize for his discovery-would certainly agree that a little shut-eye can work wonders.
So why do most employers still frown on napping and slacking? Maybe nappers need to get the research into the hands of a good PR firm. I can see the billboards now: Save a life, take a nap.
There is at least one major American company seems to get it. Google!
Google permits their employees to spend 20% of their time on non-work related activities. Stacy Sullivan, Google’s HR Director says,
“We want to take as much hurry and worry out of people’s lives as we can, because a relaxed state of mind unleashes creativity. Everybody’s on flextime here, so we don’t reward face time or working super-long hours. We just measure results.” And as we all know, the results at Google have been pretty good. Hey, maybe George Costanza had it right after all… Maybe sleeping our way to the top really is the way to go.
I will leave you to ponder: To drowse or not to drowse, That is the question.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a great deal of work to do so I’d better get back to my desk and, uh, nod off?
January 30, 2009 at 1:48 pm Peter Bromberg
We all have that patron… just slightly off psychotic, generally unkempt, possibly drunk and has a seemingly delusional story of grandeur. You know, the one who:
- Continually asks for books on advanced theoretical mathematics to disprove some Ivy League professor’s latest theory but has yet to figure out the equation “water + soap + body = less stinky”
- Claims they were once mayor of a town, possibly the one you work in, but was then run out by some unethical person of minority (take your pick and probably use the derogatory term for the chosen minority member)
- Plays chess in your library every single day and talks about how they once bested Bobby Fisher in a competition in Central Park
- Claims to be a former director of some popular videos, friends with former celebrities yet can’t seem to enter the library without making an enemy
And despite that little voice in the back of our heads saying “yeah right” we, as good public servants, listen to their story and smile, allowing them a chance to bask in memories that are, in all likelihood, probably false.
But what if, one day, that music-producer patron asks for help scanning pictures and it turns out his story isn’t complete BS?
This happened to me about a month ago.
One of our patrons, who I would love to but cannot name, comes in every single day and tells us stories of how he produced, directed or worked on videos for “many famous and successful bands.” He has always been very keen on name-dropping celebrities he used ‘hang out and party’ with. And every day, the staff smiled, nodded our heads at the appropriate times while taking very shallow breaths in order to help lighten the strength of his rather strong body odor and stale booze aroma.
So when this patron asked me to help them make a Myspace page of his former work, I took the challenge basically because I thought it would be neat to see just where the truth lies in his stories.
Imagine my surprise when he walked in with an entire photo album and film negatives of him with Jimmy Page, Gene Simmons, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Jon Bon Jovi, George Bush Sr., Hank Williams, Loverboy and Motley Crue.
How to respond? Well, I just started laughing and couldn’t stop. Each picture, musician, actor, political figure brought on another chuckle. It all seemed wholly unbelievable even though the pictures we arguably authentic. In fact, I laughed until the patron finally turned to me and said, in all seriousness, “What?! You thought I was always a drunk?!”
And then it hit me.
I thought of who my friends were in high school and then of who they are now, 15 years later. I watched a heavy drinker build his own Web-development company. I also watched one of my smartest friends trade all his potential for alcohol and pills. My best friend, who swore that children were ‘the most annoying thing on the planet’ kiss his baby on the head, tear up and say “This is awesome, I can’t believe I ever felt differently.”
And then I thought of myself and how life is most certainly different from what I thought it would be ten years ago.
Is it really all that crazy to think that we may have a former music and film director in our library? Is it unlikely that, surrounded by all the other influences that stem around the rock and roll lifestyle, that he might have succumbed to it and that today is the result of such vices?
How little we really know about the people we see day to day. How we only know who they are now, not who they were or who they will become.
Anyone else have a story they want to share?
January 14, 2009 at 3:18 pm Tyler Rousseau
Pete’s last piece on future issues reminded me to post my summary from an intriguing talk I heard in late October ’08 while at the ASIS&T conference in Columbus Ohio, I was delighted that one of the plenary speakers was Genevieve Bell, an ethnographer, who is a Senior Principal Engineer and Director of User Experience with Intel’s Digital Home Group.
In her charming Australian accent, she promised to give a provocation rather than a speech. See what you think of her ideas.
She posed the questions: “What comes next for Web? For the information/knowledge economy?” Here are a few of her predictions/observations:
The Net has gone “feral,” now gone well beyond the PC and laptop – to cell phones, TVs, GPS, game consoles, embedded devices with IP backbones. Some people will never encounter the Web on a PC, but through consumer goods, smart printers, etc. Web usage models will continue to change shape – more transactions, but much less surfing.
The Net will increasingly bring us things we didn’t have time to attend to in real time (like those all important TV shows we missed).
The Web continues to collapse time and distance and will increasingly be used for staying in touch with people. She noted that 10% of people in Tanzania have a cell phone, 90% have made a cell phone call. She also said that blogging will continue to experience exponential growth, some underrepresented voices now being heard. Most people blogging are women from 23-45 yrs. old (Hey, I’m almost young enough to have made this group ;) Many people are interfacing with the Web through intermediaries, for example, some illiterate people living without electricity in 3rd world countries are getting daily “email” deliveries, read aloud to them via cell phones by children and friends.
There will be an end to the “anglosphere.” In 2008, Chinese internet users overtook US users by about 253 million. English will soon end as the dominant language. New sites, new experiences, new services will arise. With this brings the inevitable incommensurability because it is difficult to make translations, especially for slang and idiomatic expressions.
There will be different modes of connectivity, new experiences will require more bandwidth.
Different payment structures are evolving, e.g., pay as you go vs. all you can eat, vs. capped downloads (up to a certain amount will be included, but then large fee is charged for more).
There will be more government regulation for the Net, controlling it, limiting access, regulating practices. Massive regulation is already happening across the world.
Increased socio-technical concerns – new anxieties, old anxieties. The list of things we are concerned about is growing. (OY! More to worry about in 2009).
Disconnection and switching-off are an interesting phenomenon (some people are now planning vacations around “dead spots” so they can switch off).
Hmm, “spring break” cruise anyone? Our family is planning one to the Caribbean this March in search of a “dead spot” (and, BTW, some warmer weather, NJ this winter is appalling – lots of icy treachery this week).
January 8, 2009 at 3:56 pm Marie L. Radford
A very Happy New Year to readers in the Garden!
I’ve come across two little gems that have helped get my head and my heart in the right place as I embark on another (universe willing) 365 revolutions.
The first is Branding Guru Tom Asacker’s Nine Predictions for 2009. This isn’t your your typical “let me tell you how it’s gonna be” upchuck of New Year prognostications. I love Asacker’s wit, warmth, and wisdom. If you like his predictions, I highly recommend subscribing to his blog feed and/or his insight-packed and highly readable and entertaining books. (Note: Asacker’s predictions are posted as a PDF. If you want to read in more bookmark-cut-and-pastable html, see link at: http://www.smallbusinessadvocate.com.)
The second gem is Michael Stanier’s The 5.75 Questions You’ve Been Avoiding. It’s a very nice flash animation with a drummy-jazzy soundtrack. Have a pen handy or plan on watching it twice! If you dig it, check out Michael’s blog, The Possibility Virus.
As for me, I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions. But one of my intentions for 2009 is to continue to ask and answer the question, “What is the need here, and how may I be of service?” AND to remember to factor my own needs into the equation.
Wishing you all good things in 2009!
January 2, 2009 at 12:27 pm Peter Bromberg