How one firm is upping productivity — by helping its staff to sleep

How one firm is upping productivity — by helping its staff to sleep

With poor sleep linked to productivity loss, Shopee is encouraging its employees to use the nap pods in its new premises, to get more out of them.

How to stay awake at work? At e-commerce start-up Shopee, the answer is: Take a power nap.  Its new headquarters in Singapore have nap pods with blackout curtains, meant for staff manning its 24/7 operations. The science of sleep and productivity at work shows that naps can be more effective than drinking coffee.

SINGAPORE: In this office, people are encouraged to sleep on the job.

Office space on almost every floor has been sacrificed for rooms with double-decker capsule beds, soft and warm lighting and even blackout curtains.

It all makes for a well-rested lot of coders, developers and data analysts at e-commerce platform Shopee’s new six-storey regional headquarters in Kent Ridge, which opened last month.

“All of us have occasions when we just need that 30 minutes, (or) that one hour of a quick power nap. And that can enable us to work more efficiently,” explained Lim Teck Yong, Shopee’s head of regional operations and people team.

“It gives us that drive to continue working at a higher productivity level.”

At e-commerce platform Shopee’s regional headquarters in Kent Ridge, a room with eight beds.
A room with eight beds.

Their nap pods are thus designed to be conducive to rest, to “extract the most out of their 30-minute nap”.

As the programme Money Mind finds out, there is a need to fight fatigue — in the company, and Singapore in general. (Watch the episode here.)

READ: Feeling sleepy at work? The importance of power naps and where to take them in busy Singapore

READ: The benefits of napping – and how to snooze without affecting your sleep at night

DAY AND NIGHT

With the online shopping boom, Shopee’s developers and data analysts often spend long hours at their computer screens, hence the nap pods for them to break the monotony of coding.

WATCH: A capsule hotel? No, it's Shopee's sleep pods for staff (3:01)

“We’re (also) operating 24/7 so our app doesn’t stop. We have to fix issues along the way,” noted Lim.

“Many times, we have to do system maintenance at night. So some of our developers and desk operations team would stay up late at night to service the system.”

The employees have free use of the office gym, pool tables and massage services, but many choose to use the 40 nap pods scattered around the building, mostly during lunchtime and in the late evenings. There is no booking system.

“We maintain hotel-standard cleanliness in our nap pods. So we change the sheets every day,” said Lim.

In e-commerce platform Shopee’s nap pods in its regional headquarters, the sheets are changed daily.

The average age of the staff, who number more than 1,000, is about 27, and they are “all pretty dynamic, all seeking to make a change in the world”.

“Millennials today tend to work a bit harder, and hence providing these staff benefits will help ease some of the stress and the workload … and make it a bit easier for them to work,” he added.

In fact, the link between sleep and productivity is quite strong.

In 2010, a study of more than 4,000 workers from four American companies showed that those who had insufficient sleep or suffered from insomnia had three times the rate of productivity loss, versus those categorised as good sleepers.

E-commerce platform Shopee’s regional headquarters in Kent Ridge opened in September 2019.
Shopee's office in Kent Ridge.

“(The study) also showed that workers with insomnia and sleep deprivation functioned less well. They make more mistakes. They have poorer memory and concentration, poorer interpersonal relationships and communication problems,” cited Dr Leow Leong Chai, director of the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) Sleep Disorders Unit.

And in recent years, a small but growing number of businesses here, including SAP Singapore and Google Singapore, have installed sleep pods. Even the Nanyang Technological University set up a rest pod in a library last year for its students.

READ: Commentary: Sleeping more is essential to performing well at work and school

READ: Commentary: Always tired yet can’t fall asleep? It’s a wake-up call to sleep better

NO SLEEP IS LIKE BEING DRUNK

While the amount of sleep a person requires depends on his or her age, an average of between seven and eight hours is recommended for optimum health and functioning.

The amount of sleep required depends on one's age, though seven to eight hours is recommended.

If one goes without sleep for around 20 hours straight, one’s level of functioning is equivalent to someone who is legally drunk, with a blood alcohol content of nearly 0.1 per cent, said Leow, citing another study.

“That’s how bad it is,” he said. “When you’re sleep deprived, you’d make bad decisions (and) may be more impulsive, maybe grumpier. So it’s very important to have good rest.”

In Singapore, one of the most sleep-deprived countries — where many are not getting the ideal hours of slumber at night — sleep disorders are not uncommon.

READ: Only half of Singaporeans get enough sleep: Survey

READ: Commentary: A necessity Singaporeans cannot afford – more sleep

Last year, the SGH Sleep Disorders Unit saw more than 7,300 patients, an increase of around 10 per cent from 2017.

Dr Leow Leong Chai doing a test at the Singapore General Hospital's Sleep Disorders Unit.
Dr Leow with a patient at the Sleep Disorders Unit.

For a restful sleep, experts recommend regular waking hours even at weekends, no caffeine after 2pm and no electronic devices before bedtime.

A short afternoon nap is also more effective than a cup of coffee in improving one’s function, advised Leow.

“But it’s important not to nap for too long, otherwise it’ll affect your ability to fall asleep at night. So I’d say limit the nap to 20 to 30 minutes after lunch,” he added.

At Shopee, its next step is to improve the sound insulation and overall ambience in its nap pods.

Lim Teck Yong, Shopee’s head of regional operations and people team, hopes to improve its nap pods.
Shopee's Lim Teck Yong.

The company believes that such staff benefits keep its employees happy and thus productive. “In the near future, these will become … basic office facilities that every company should embrace,” said Lim.

“In Singapore, productivity improvement is a top priority … And as a tech company in a fast-paced industry, I think we ought to improve productivity and find all ways possible to achieve that.”

Watch this episode of Money Mind here. New episodes every Saturday at 10.30pm.

At Shopee, its next step is to improve the sound insulation and overall ambience in its nap pods.

Source: CNA/dp

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