Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Milk, Cookies and an Obligatory Nap in the Workplace...

There's a quote on my calendar today. It says: "Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milke about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap"- Barbara Jordan.

I find that to be an interesting quote. In theory, it sounds like a lovely idea. I've always wondered what would happen if companies instituted a required nap/relax hour in the afternoons for everyone. It would be rather nice, at least in theory. Yet, based on experience in working in offices, I don't think it's much of a reality.

Don't get me wrong. I think it were announced in an office meeting room to the staff, their first reaction would initially be one of happiness and content. I mean, who wouldn't like to be given a designated lazy time, complete with snacks to soothe you to rest? From my own point of view, I like the idea but even when I was little, I coudn't take naps. I tried but I'd end up lying there awake. Finally, my teacher let me get up quietly and read a book in the corner while the other kids slept. I'd rather have gone to bed earlier back then and not interrupted my day with sleep.

I wonder if I'd be able to nap now. I can't even sleep on a plane very well at night. I can never shut my mind down for long enough to really sleep. Though, I will say, when I lived in L.A., there were days in the height of summer when the thermometer crawled past 100 degrees in which movement of any kind seemed exhausting and after a morning of activity, my roommate and I would flop on our beds and not move for a while. I think that might have constituted a nap.

Yet, my personal napping habits aside, I still don't think that the idea of having a regular 3 p.m. milk and cookie break complete with nap would work in an office. Here's my interpretation, based solely on experience:

Setting: A conference room in a small company. There are about 24 employees seated around a large table with some seated in the corner of the office back from the table. The four managers are also seated around the table. There are doughnuts at one end of the table. Some people are eating them.

Company President: We have some good news! We've decided that you work hard and we'd like to reward you by giving you cookies and milk at 3 p.m. every day followed by an hour nap.

There is murmured whispering. Some people are smiling. Others...are not.

Employee #1: That sounds great but I'm on a diet. (She pointedly looks around at the people eating doughnuts. At least one employee looks embarrassed and lays their doughnut down). Will there be healthy snacks as well?

Company President: Well, it's a milk and cookie break so no. We'll try to have some lower fat options.

Employee #1: Those won't help. They're not on my Weight Watchers.

Company President: You are also permitted to bring your own snacks.

Employee #2: I'm lactose intolerant. As you're probably aware, this is a medical problem. I cannot drink milk. What will you do to cater to that?

Company President (a note of irritation in his voice): There will water.

Employee #3 (quietly from the corner of the room): Do we have to take our nap?

(A pause.) Company President: Well, if you can't sleep, we can't force you.

Employee #3: Will we have to work an extra hour to make up for the hour we're sleeping?

Company President:(glancing at the other managers): Well, we discussed that and for now, we agreed not to do that. However, if productivity does go down, we will rethink the whole thing.

Employee #3: What if I need to work through my nap? Can I leave an hour early to compensate?

Company President: No.

Employee #4: But if we have vital work to do, why shouldn't we work through our nap and then just leave early to go nap at home?

Company President: Because the nap is company sponsored. If you nap at home, it isn't.

Employee #3: But if we're losing an hour of work because of this, it isn't fair. I have important work to do. I shouldn't be penalized for being efficient.

Company President: A nap is not a penalty.

Employee #3: It is if you need to work. You're saying I have to drop everything and nap. I'm being required to drop everything and nap.

Employee #5: What if we have a meeting scheduled at 3 p.m.?

Company President: Don't schedule meetings for that time.

Employee #6: Sometimes we have to!

Employee #3: Yes! Are you saying that the people we're meeting with are napping too?

Employee #4: And if we're travelling for business, do we still have to nap? I mean, technically we're on the clock, so are you saying we have to nap for an hour?

Employee #5: Right! And what if we are travelling. Do we take milk and cookies with us? Will we be given a per diem?


The only thing I exaggerated in this discussion is the length. If it were a real meeting, it would go on for at least another 30 minutes. It may seem ridiculous but, believe me, I've heard this discussion in one form or another throughout a lot of my working life. Management try to be nice but the employees don't get that or they abuse it. It's sad. If you're wondering, I would not be any of the employees in the discussion. I'd be the one quietly sitting there trying not to laugh because of the ridiculousness of it. Then I'd go and write a blog about it.

No, my company hasn't tried to institute a milk-and-cookies-and-nap policy but they have tried various other mini-perks that have worked against them. They tried to require us to take a 30 lunch because they felt like it was good to have us take a break, stretch our legs, get some fresh-air, etc. That did NOT go over well. People felt targeted because of their child-care situations. They were used to skipping lunch and leaving early. While I agree that is rather nice, it is also nice to have a 30 minute period in which I can actually NOT work and it's ok.

Anyway, until I read my calendar, I had no idea what to blog about today. Fortunately, the quote inspired me. I, personally, would rather like to have milk and cookies at 3 p.m....as long as it wasn't an obligation. Also, I'm not actually big on cookies. I like milk but not always. There's just no pleasing us all, is there?

Happy Tuesday!

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