Bellingen workplace nap challenge

Workers put their bodies on the line for Nap Challenge

Earlier this month, in the small town of Bellingen, NSW, ten workers – each from different workplaces –  took on the novel challenge of taking two powernaps a week during their working day, for three weeks in a row.

Far from being the lazy man’s challenge, nearly all participants rated it a ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ feat.  We are not exactly accustomed to taking a lie down on the job.  But there are sound health and safety reasons to do so, especially during the post-lunch dip.  Which is why last year, German Unions called for power naps to be integrated into the working day.  The Bellingen challenge is part of a pro-active movement  – NapNow – that isn’t waiting for power naps to be approved, but is getting on with the job of normalising the mini-siesta in our Western work culture.

The results of the challenge tallied last week, found that 50% of participants achieved the challenge. The most naps taken were 9 naps over the three weeks, and the least, one.

Challenge organiser, workplace health writer and speaker Thea O’Connor, organised the challenge to help train people in the habit of taking a brief energy-boosting break during the afternoon, rather than simply pushing on despite fatigue, or relying on artificial stimulation to get through the afternoon.  Research conducted by Dr. Sara Mednick from the University of California, which compared the effects of caffeine and napping, found that the mini-siesta is a superior pick me up.  While napping and caffeine both improved alertness, caffeine made memory worse on two out of three tasks, while napping improved memory on all tests.  So next time you reach for another ‘hit’, ask yourself …. do I want to be wired, or do I want to be smart?

The ten nappers came from diverse sectors including childcare, IT, real estate, hospitality, retail and local government. They all found unique nap nooks to take their ‘energy break’ such as a hammock or office couch.

Winner of the challenge, Mandy Traynor, project manager at GO4 media, used the local Nap Zzzone at Stillpoint, St Andrews Uniting Church.  This community space has been created as a quiet stop over where people can come and rest, reflect and recharge in whatever (quiet) manner they choose, from powernaps to prayer.  “It’s a lot easier to nap in my lunchtime than to try and get time at home,” says Mandy, mother of two, who found that she had a lot more energy for her family when she got home from work on the days that she napped.   All participants said that napping definitely delivered the benefits they had hoped for – whether that was afternoon efficiency, reducing stress or simply giving oneself more downtime – and that they all wanted to keep powernaps as an option for a working day pick-me-up.

For further information and media comment: Thea O’Connor, 0412 190 860,

The workplace Nap Challenge was supported by the Bellingen Chamber of Commerce as a sustainable and tangible benefit for business owners, managers and staff, and by Transition Bellingen as part of a larger social movement building community resilience and exploring sustainable ways of living now, and in the future.

May 2012.