Thursday, September 30, 2010

Productivity, yes; sleeping on the job, no

Tony Schwartz, writing at the Harvard Business Review's The Conversation Blog, thinks that employees would be more productive if they took naps everyday between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. While I haven't studied the evidence he cites, this idea strikes me as a bad one. Even if a siesta can increase productivity and mental sharpness, think of the possible problems. Do you want to deal with the harassment complaint when you-know-who falls asleep next to oh-no-not-that-guy? Or, what about the customer relations nightmare when your largest account finds out his key contact person is sleeping at 2 p.m.? Perception often becomes reality, and the reality of that situation will be your largest customer finding a company where the employees don't nap during the work day.

Instead, let me suggest a couple of alternatives to increase employee productivity.
  1. Spend an hour per day (during a non-peak time) in a technology-free zone. Turn off your phone, your PDA, and your computer. Imagine how much you could get done with no phone calls, no emails, and no Facebook.

  2. Google lets its employees spend up to 20% of their time working on their own projects and ideas, a policy called Innovation Time. From this practice, Google has gotten an astounding 50% of its products (including Gmail, Google News, and AdSense). Most employers do not have the luxury of their workers spending one day per week doing whatever interests them. But, there are other things you can do to spark productivity in your workplace. For example, my firm just awarded three sets of Indians tickets to employees who submitted the best new ideas (Please, no jokes about whether going to see the Indians is a reward or a punishment). 
There is a lot your business can do to promote productivity and creativity without encouraging employees to sleep on the job. It just takes a little creativity on your own part.

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