At the corporate office of Ben & Jerry’s, employees are constantly sleeping on the job — and management couldn’t be happier about it. More than 10 years ago, the company added a nap room with a futon-style bed, allowing tired employees to catch a few extra minutes of sleep during the day.  

“There’s no sign-up sheet, and no one is monitoring it,” says Laura Peterson, manager of public elations (not a typo) for the ice cream maker.  “We want our employees to get well, be well, and stay well.”

Nodding Off Is In

Ben & Jerry’s was ahead of its time in offering a place for tired workers to grab a nap, but major companies like Google, Uber, and The Huffington Post have jumped on the bandwagon. In fact, the trend has become prevalent enough that nap pods, which provide a cozy, private environment for grabbing some shut-eye, were invented to capitalize on it.

Nap pods come in different styles. Some look like tubes or capsules, while others look like futuristic, enclosed recliners. MetroNaps, one of the leading makers of sleep pods, has crafted the sleeping chambers since 2003 and installed them in everything from office buildings and hospitals to universities and fitness centers.

“If people feel that their whole self is supported, they will be more loyal and productive,” Peterson says. “That’s why we offer so many well-being benefits.”

Making the Case for Napping

A nap at work can do wonders, even if you aren’t sleep deprived. A 2008 study conducted by British researchers found that naps are more effective than caffeine or getting more sleep at night when it comes to keeping you alert throughout the day.

For people who suffer from sleep disorders or whose lives simply don’t allow them to get the amount of sleep they need, the National Sleep Foundation says a 10-minute to 30-minute nap is the perfect way to refresh without disturbing nocturnal sleep.

Nap pods and napping rooms provide a way for companies to offer employees a chance to make up for a little lost slumber time, which minimizes the negative effects of lack of sleep and helps them overcome that dreaded afternoon slump and its associated low productivity.

What’s Next for Nap Pods

So, are sleep pods just a fad, or are they here to stay? As companies continue to become more cognizant of the need to enhance employee well-being, perks like a nap room or a nap pod could become much more than a fad.

Last year, the UK-based company Sleepbox opened an office in Boston and unveiled its first napping pod in the U.S. Originally designed for use in airports, founder and CEO Mikhail Krymov says the company’s vision has grown to include schools and workspaces – largely due to a much greater need for nap pods here in the states.

“I think the nap trend is strongest in the U.S. because the problem of not getting enough sleep is bigger here,” he says. “As [companies] begin understanding that, they see it as part of their wellness programs. They’re becoming more educated about how sleep deprivation affects our lives and productivity.”

While plenty of evidence points to the benefit employers receive from having rejuvenated workers who are at their best, Krymov says some studies have even linked a direct financial benefit to having a rested worker.

But profitability is only one consideration. Krymov says the trend is also picking up interest from hospitals, high schools, and colleges.

“These are all places where you have people who need some rest,” Krymov says. In schools, he says, there is a direct link between adequate sleep and test performance. He predicts that as more young adults raised in what he calls a “nap culture” enter the workplace, even more traditional workspaces – such as government and law offices – will open their arms to the napping trend.

“The biggest argument for nap pods is that they’re working,” he says. “In a culture where workplaces support personal well-being and happiness, this is going to play a big role in the future. We are just at the beginning of this trend.”  

Ben & Jerry’s Peterson says just having a designated place for napping sends a clear message to employees. While Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t monitor how frequently the nap room is used, or who uses it, she says it remains a popular perk for employees. “People know they have the option [of napping] whether they take advantage of it or not,” she says. “It lets them know their employer supports their well-being.” And, she adds, it’s one more well-being benefit that she says helps improve productivity and on-the-job happiness.