It used to be a bit of an insult, didn’t it? It was even a line in a song; Sacha Distel sang that the sun was ‘sleeping on the job’, as there were raindrops falling on his head.
It was seen as being rather a lazy, unproductive practice. You weren’t pulling your weight, getting the job done.
In a complete volte-face, however, recently, especially in Japan, it has been suggested that it is fine to have a nap.
It is probably prompted by the increased incidence of the use of mobile telephony and other forms of immediate communication.
Many people at work feel a pressure to be available, even when they are not at work.
It is a sort of vanity, tempered by fear or concern, that you are indispensable.
Or perhaps that you don’t wish to be seen as being dispensable.
In any event, you have your phone with you. It is configured to access both personal and work-related emails.
You can chat via a multitude of social media apps and keep in touch, with vital information flowing in constantly.
There is a drive to respond to a request quickly, even to just make a comment or quickly send a photograph back.
I know people who are so available that they engage in a ludicrous display of ‘one up-man-ship’ with photographs being exchanged every few minutes, with a bewildering array of emojis to illuminate and enliven the critically important images, typically of the latest meal, or the antics of a pet.
This is vital stuff.
It is a sin to not be able to respond to a message.
Even if the message is to many a trivial, unimportant bagatelle.
The problem is that this attitude has carried over into the workplace and unscrupulous employers are taking advantage of it.
If an email is sent out after office hours and you do not pay attention, react, and respond, you are not seen as being as productive, as dedicated, as you might or should be.
There is a judgement passed and a note made.
To allow for this ludicrous and unfair expectation, employers are relaxing the workplace working environment.
Don’t worry, they say. We’ll offer workshops on working in a managed way. We’ll let you take a nap at work. We won’t give the impression that it is wrong.
But we will expect you to be available for longer, absurd hours outside of the office.
Employees feel grateful, impressed even.
They say to friends that they are allowed to sleep at work.
I was in ‘the local’ the other evening, talking to a group of friends. It was a group which was composed of different nationalities and ages.
One of the group, a Portuguese chap, listened carefully to an American lady who was celebrating her employer’s benevolence and tolerance.
She explained that she could sleep for a short while if she felt tired.
‘Isn’t that just great?’, she asked, clearly expecting the group to agree.
The Portuguese chap asked a simple question. ‘Do you ever turn your mobile off?’
It sort of said it all.
Mike Gaunt is a former assistant headmaster at St Christopher’s School, Bahrain – firstname.lastname@example.org