The ‘desk nap’ a secret of productivity in China?

by HCA03 Aug 2012

It’s a tradition which at first seems wildly out-of-place with the Western understanding of workplace conduct. What’s more, it’s a practice which doesn’t quite align the view of Chinese offices being hives of unrelenting productivity.

Yet ‘nap time’ is an accepted part of Chinese working culture and if an employee is feeling tired it is considered OK for them to snatch 40 winks at their desk. Napping in the office is not at all seen as a sign of laziness, and is actually seen as a legitimate, invigorating task by managers. In Shanghai, there are even “nap bars” near executive centres where soft music and alarms are provided.

In fact, the tradition of desk-napping is not at all out of alignment with current research. A recent Australian study that looked at the length of naps concluded that a 10-minute nap produced immediate improvements in all outcome measures (including sleep latency, subjective sleepiness, fatigue, vigor, and cognitive performance), with some of these benefits maintained for as long as 155 minutes.

According to traditional Chinese medicine theories, to repress one’s desire for a mid-day doze is to wage war against the rhythm of your body, the rhythm of yin and yang. But following an influx of Western management styles, the days of the desk-nap may be numbered.


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