Arianna Huffington believes so strongly in the value of a well-rested mind that she actually encourages her employees to sleep on the job. In the spring of 2011, she had two nap rooms installed in The Huffington Post’s Manhattan headquarters.
Tucked behind a pair of simple white doors opposite the office pingpong table, the light-gray rooms are simply furnished with an end table, a few straw baskets, framed pictures of cottony clouds and, of course, various places to sack out. One room offers a daybed and a reading chair, while the other is more high-tech, with a lounge chair that reclines via remote control and a nap pod that looks something like a dentist’s chair outfitted with a space-age hood that repels light and plays soothing sounds. Small red and green lights at the entrance indicate if the room is occupied and for how long. Clipboards invite people to reserve a spot at half-hour intervals.
According to Huffington, it took some prodding to convince staff members to put their feet up. “Many were afraid their colleagues might think they were shirking their duties by taking a nap,” she says. “We’ve made it very clear, however, that walking around drained and exhausted is what should be looked down on—not taking a break to rest and recharge.”
In recent years, Google, Nike, Cisco and Procter & Gamble have also embraced these slumber parties. Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians, too. Zappos even toyed with converting the jail cells in its Las Vegas headquarters—formerly home to the local city hall—into sleeping spaces.
But, says former Cornell psychology professor James B. Maas, Ph.D., who claims to have coined the term power nap, many companies are still wary of the idea. “They say, ‘If anybody finds out we have nap rooms, they’ll think we are sleep-deprived and lazy, and the stockholders won’t like it.’ ”
In Maas’s view, this is foggy thinking. “Most companies have wellness programs, which are 99 percent focused on nutrition and exercise,” he explains. “They completely ignore sleep. And yet without sleep, the other two don’t do you any good.” In fact, he says, “we can demonstrate that sleep deprivation seriously affects the bottom line in terms of illness, early death, accidents, mental and physical mistakes.”
Huffington needs no convincing. She occasionally catches some Zs on the couch in her office. “I don’t even close my curtains anymore,” she says. “I want people in the newsroom to see that I am having a nap.”
Arianna Huffington, who's featured on the April 2015 cover of SUCCESS magazine, has made it her life's work to redefine success. Read the full feature to find out how she’s leading the charge for well-being in the American workplace.