Commentary: Sleeping for success by power napping at work

Joe PIsani
Joe PIsani

If you’ve ever fallen asleep on the job, don’t listen to what the boss says — you’re not a slacker, you’re a visionary.

In fact, you’re part of a national trend to improve workplace productivity called “power napping,” which is becoming as popular as surprise pay cuts. Harvard Medical School describes it as “a way to make you more productive at work and at home.”

These experts claim that power napping will stimulate you more than a mucho grande, caffeine-loaded, double caramel macchiato from Starbucks.

If you take a power nap on the boss’s time, you’ll pull in the driveway at 9:05 p.m. after a long commute and an 11-hour day … and start doing yard work, but only after you re-grout the bathroom.

Several studies suggest that a brief nap can keep you alert and upbeat. It also reverses information overload by consolidating memories from the short-term memory banks to the permanent memory, whatever that means.

If more people slept on the job, there’d be less embezzlement, less theft of office supplies, and fewer hostile takeovers. The stock market would even do better.

Some illustrious people routinely slipped away from work for catnaps, including Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Some even slept with their eyes open.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked with many talented individuals who recognized the importance of strategic napping.

A few hid in the coat room or under the loading dock, some stayed in the lavatory for hours — if not days — while others napped in full sight of the boss, but not for long. Shortly afterward, they were snoozing at the unemployment office.

One young fellow whose cubicle was near mine would go into a Buddha-like trance at precisely 3:25 every afternoon and stare at taxis backed up on Park Avenue in Manhattan.

At first, I thought he was deep in thought or on the verge of a major innovation, until I heard snoring and grunting and realized he was just recharging his batteries to prepare for a long night of partying.

Another guy arrived promptly at 9 a.m. and fell asleep promptly at 9:27. This habit incensed his young coworkers, who didn’t understand the benefits of napping.

They considered him a worthless geezer who wasn’t carrying his weight and would soon be draining the Social Security system to their misfortune.

As a reprisal, they started taking pictures of him with his head rolled back, his eyes shut, his mouth wide open and spittle dribbling down his cheek.

They posted the photos on Instagram and Facebook until I told them to spend less time on social media and more time doing something productive like snoozing, which would keep them out of trouble.

Then, there was the woman who went out for a few drinks at lunchtime — a few very large drinks — and came back and sleep it off until the 5 o’clock whistle blew. To her credit, during the two or three hours when she wasn’t drinking or sleeping, she put in a good day’s work, however abbreviated.

Yes, sleeping on the job is gaining respectability and you don’t have to be an employee of Sleepy’s to appreciate the benefits. Google has developed “nap pods,” which have no light or sound. They encourage employees to relax instead of going to the juice bar. (Those guys don’t drink martinis at lunch.)

In New York City, home of the latest scary trends, they have spas where you can catch a few quick winks for $1 a minute. At those rates, only highly compensated executives can afford the service.

However, it’s better for them to spend the afternoon napping instead of cavorting with their administrative assistants in high-priced hotel rooms that they’ll put on their corporate expense accounts.

For everyone else, there are benches and bushes in Central Park, pews in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, or the men’s room at Grand Central Terminal.

Yes, it’s time for American workers to unite and rest their heads on their desks and start snoring in unison … to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy or A Hard Day’s Night.

Joe Pisani, who grew up in Shelton’s Pine Rock neighborhood, may be reached at