Article: Sleepy while working? Take a nap!

Life @ Work

Sleepy while working? Take a nap!

When caught in the rhythm of work, pausing to rest can be difficult. Here are practical tips to help you enjoy some downtime.
Sleepy while working? Take a nap!

The message to employees was loud and clear:

“Sleeping is not part of your job description. If you find that you have no further duties to attend to, the expectation is that you either attend the Emergency Department to assist them or contact the overnight SRMO [Senior Resident Medical Officer] and assist them on the wards.”

This was the gist of an email received by junior medical officers at Manning Base Hospital. The directive, issued to doctors worn out from sleepless nights covering their shifts, also included the removal of a mattress and bedding from their break room. Furthermore, the communication threatened surveillance of this area to prevent any further sleeping.

A few days later, likely due to public and media pressure, the health authorities of New England district acknowledged their mistake. A spokesperson told the Australian Medical Association that they would apologise to the staff, emphasising the significance of rest during long hours.

Backtracking, officials said: "Manning Hospital has designated rest areas and does not discourage staff members from seeking safe and adequate rest … the safety and well-being of all staff is of paramount importance."

This incident raises several pertinent questions: Is it feasible to demand more from employees already depleted by night shifts or extended hours without breaks? Is it justifiable to reprimand them for taking breaks to sustain their work productivity and quality?

The importance of rest in productivity

In a work culture where productivity often correlates with long hours and relentless effort, the importance of rest is frequently overlooked. Yet, experts assert that integrating periods of rest into extended workdays is not merely a luxury but a necessity for maintaining both health and productivity.

The prevailing workplace culture often glorifies overwork, sacrificing employees’ well-being in the pursuit of deadlines and excellence. This relentless drive leads individuals to forego sleep, leisure, and health. Studies have consistently demonstrated that prolonged work periods without sufficient rest can severely affect both physical and mental health.

Productivity also declines as fatigue sets in, impairing cognitive functions and decision-making abilities.

Contrary to popular belief, incorporating brief rest periods into the workday can significantly boost productivity and overall well-being. Regular breaks allow the brain to recharge – enhancing creativity, concentration, and problem-solving capabilities.

Activities such as short walks, meditation, or even brief power naps can alleviate the adverse effects of prolonged sitting and mental exertion. By allowing the mind and body to recuperate, individuals are better prepared to address challenges with renewed energy and clarity.

Both the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization warn against extended working hours since these are linked to increased deaths from ischaemic heart disease and stroke.

“Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard,” says Dr Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health at WHO. “It’s time that we all, governments, employers, and employees wake up to the fact that long working hours can lead to premature death.”

Practical tips for integrating rest

When caught in the rhythm of work, it’s not always easy to pause for a few minutes to rest. Here are some tips on how to incorporate breaks effectively:

1) Practise the Pomodoro Technique

Work for a set period, typically 25 minutes, followed by a short break. After four “Pomodoros,” or work intervals, take a longer break. This method helps prevent burnout, maintain productivity, and promote mental freshness by alternating intense focus with regular rest.

2) Stretch and move around

Prolonged sitting can lead to stiffness and discomfort. Integrate short stretching or movement breaks into your day to prevent muscle tension and improve circulation. Even a brief walk around the office or a few stretches at your desk can enhance physical well-being and cognitive function.

3) Enjoy a proper lunch break

Avoid eating at your desk or skipping lunch. Instead, take a proper break to nourish your body and mind. Use this time to enjoy a nutritious meal away from work-related distractions, allowing yourself to fully unwind and recharge for the afternoon ahead.

4) Engage in mindfulness or relaxation exercises

Dedicate a few minutes to mindfulness or relaxation techniques during breaks. This could involve deep breathing exercises, meditation, or simply focusing on the present moment. Such practices can reduce stress and enhance mental focus.

5) Connect with colleagues socially

Take advantage of breaks to socialise with colleagues in a relaxed setting. Engaging in casual conversations or sharing a laugh can foster camaraderie, relieve stress, and boost morale. Building positive relationships with co-workers not only enhances job satisfaction but also creates a more supportive environment conducive to productivity and creativity.

The need for downtime at work: Go slow to go fast

The incidents at Manning Base Hospital highlight a critical issue in workplace culture across various sectors: the undervaluation of rest amidst the pressures of productivity and operational demands. As evidenced by expert studies and health warnings, neglecting rest not only undermines worker health and safety but also impairs long-term productivity.

Recognising the necessity of adequate downtime, including short breaks and proper rest periods, is essential for sustaining both individual well-being and organisational efficiency.

Employers and policymakers must revaluate and adjust work practices to safeguard health, boost morale, and ultimately enhance overall output by integrating scientifically supported rest strategies into the daily routines of their workforce.

Read full story

Topics: Life @ Work, #Wellbeing

Did you find this story helpful?



How do you envision AI transforming your work?