I wake up early. I stay up late. On an average night, I sleep for about 5 or 6 hours. It is usually plenty for me. Though my recent run-in with Shingles might make some people believe otherwise. I normally wake up refreshed, energized, and ready to enjoy the day and its many adventures. Every once and a while, though, too many 5-hour nights in a row, combined with a starchy lunch, creates for a slow-paced afternoon.
You know the feeling. That “2:30 feeling”. 5-hour Energy has made millions of dollars on that slogan. Interestingly enough, I’ve experienced this feeling even on days where I have had multiple 7-hour nights of sleep in a row. The cause: starch. I’m not a nutritionist, so I’ll let you do your own research on why starch causes the post-lunch crashes. In brief, it has to do with starch turning into sugar in the body, and the body’s blood-sugar levels and insulin levels being altered.
The problem with a groggy afternoon is a huge dip in productivity. It’s why other countries, like Spain, take siestas. Our circadian rhythms tend to cycle in such a way that the afternoons create a bout of drowsiness. Some people even experience it regardless of whether they have had a large or starchy lunch or not.
Over-Worked, Stressed, Tired, But Productive?
So why don’t we take siestas? Americans (and other countries around the globe) have developed a very competitive, over-loaded mindset that makes many of us believe that we can’t take a break or we won’t get anything done. Manual labor jobs seem more likely to have this mindset. Thinking back to every manual labor position I had, there wasn’t a single one that valued giving employees a chance to rest and regenerate over a break. We were lucky to get a 15 minute break before and after lunch; and lunch was only 30 minutes (the required minimum for an 8-hour workday in Texas).
It is the workplace culture here, it seems, that to take a break is counter-productive. If we take a 15 minute break, that’s 15 minutes of lost time for the company. Customers will have to wait, and they might get impatient, and we might lose the business. If we take an hour for lunch, the same thing might happen. No argument that this is a valid concern; but it’s the wrong mindset.
Longer Work Days, Longer Breaks, More Productive Employees
Companies have perfected the dance that is coordinating multiple people’s schedules to accommodate working shifts. There is no reason that same methodology and process couldn’t be applied to providing workers with the ability to take a longer break during the work day. Ideally, the way to achieve this would be through a longer work day. If the typical work day is eight hours with an hour for lunch, then maybe it makes sense to make the work day nine hours long but with the ability to take a two-hour lunch.
A Nine-Hour Work Day Provides Several Benefits
Longer lunches allow employees to run their personal errands during the day. Things like going to the bank, the post office, the DMV, and other similar places that are notorious for long waits and not being open during after-work hours. A longer lunch would let employees take care of personal issues during the day, which leads to happier employees.
Happier Employees Produce More
You’ve probably experienced this. When employees are happy with their jobs, their employers, and their managers, they tend to be more inclined to work harder and produce more. Combine this extra drive with increased rest and alertness, and companies have a powerful combination for success. Employers and managers should also take note that some employees (not all, mind you) are also willing to be paid less when they are happy where they work. Money isn’t everything to all employees. Many just want enough to get by, leave a comfortable life, spend time with their families, and do the things in life they want to do.
Afternoon Naps Boost Productivity
20 minutes. I know people that spend 6-10 times that just browsing around on Facebook during the work day – from work! It gives them a way to look like they are busy, without actually doing anything. Facebook isn’t the only culprit. Some people might sit and read “relevant” articles (which of course means they are watching YouTube, or something else). The point is, instead of forcing employees to be in a situation where they have to force themselves to do something active so they can stay awake, why not encourage a 20 minute nap. Instead of killing braincells on mindless activities on the Internet, employees will be able to take an energizing nap. When they wake up, they will be rested, more alert, and more productive.