can I nap on my break?

A reader writes:

I work for a large company that has a large common break and dining area, which has dining tables and booths like a restaurant, along with many televisions along the walls showing various network and cable shows. They also serve food and beverages. This area is an employees-only area and isn’t accessible or viewable by our customers.

I typically arrive to work early to cover myself in case of traffic or other issues, and on days with no problems typically arrive 15-30 minutes early. For the past couple months, I’ve sat in one of the booths with some coffee, and while sitting upright, relaxed and closed my eyes until it was time to head to my work area. I typically don’t fall asleep due to the coffee and the fact that I’m not tired, but someone seeing me might think so. Well, someone did and told my boss and my boss told me not to take naps during my breaks.

That doesn’t seem right. I’m allowed to eat and use the restrooms, but I can’t take a nap? Even if I’m not sleeping, does that mean I’m not allowed to close my eyes and not move for long periods of time? My work is hard but being able to rest and relax beforehand is really helpful to my day’s productivity. How much pushback should I give on this or should I just let it go?

In theory, you should be able to nap on your breaks or before work. That is, by definition, time that you’re not working and thus your employer should give you wide leeway in how you use it.

That said, in practice, “don’t fall asleep at work” is a very common office expectation. Some of that is about perception — people don’t know that you’re on a break or not officially on the clock yet and it can look like you’re sleeping when you should be working. That can look really bad for you, and even for your boss (who appears to have an employee who’s openly slacking off). It would be nice if people assumed that if they spot you sleeping (or appearing to sleep), it’s because you’re not on the clock … but the reality is, people don’t always default to that assumption.

Some of it, too, is just convention. We’re not generally used to encountering sleeping colleagues at work, and it can be jarring.

All that said, though, there might be some room here for you to give some context to your boss and see if that changes anything. You could say, “I haven’t been sleeping in the dining area, but I do sometimes sit with my eyes closed before work because I find it makes me more productive once the day starts. I’d like to be able to keep doing that — is that okay with you, since I’m not actually sleeping?” (Hell, you might even be meditating during that time. Who’s to say? And your boss might be more open to that.)

But if the answer is still no, I’d leave it there. The perception stuff is real, and if your boss is opposed, this isn’t a battle worth fighting. You could, however, do this in your car rather than in the dining area, and might have more privacy there. (Or you could go all-out and pitch your office on napping pods! But at that point you might look overly invested in naps and resting your eyes.)

{ 320 comments… read them below }

  1. Megan*

    Maybe you could get a table tent to display that says “do not disturb: meditation in progress”.

    1. Secretary*

      This is exactly what I was going to suggest! Maybe clear with the boss first though since they already said not to close your eyes.

      1. Specialk9*

        I was thinking: sit cross-legged (if possible) with your fingers in the ommm position (I’m sure there’s a real name for that) on your knees, eyes closed. Everybody will know that means meditation, not napping.

        1. nnn*

          That’s what I was came to post – I think it’s called lotus pose? You could even put in earbuds and play a file with a title like “Guided Meditation” (even if it’s just relaxing instrumental music or birdsong or silence or whatever.)

        2. Barista*

          Cross legged with back straight Is Lotus position, I believe.

          Hand and finger positions are called Mudras.

    2. MCL*

      Or put on some headphones. Even if they have nothing playing. Then you look like you’re closing your eyes to enjoy whatever you’re listening to!

    3. EddieSherbert*

      One woman in my office has a sign she hangs on the back of her chair during breaks saying “JANE IS ON HER LUNCH BREAK” (because someone complained she was on FB or something… but it was during her lunch break). She says it’s helped.

      1. Clinical Social Worker*

        Ugh. People. I love her tactic. I’m annoyed that folks have to resort to stuff like this though.

        1. LeRainDrop*

          Seriously, what’s with all the hall monitors? I hope OP follows Alison’s script to give a little push-back. It’s perfectly reasonable for her to meditate or rest with her eyes closed before she goes on the clock.

    4. TootsNYC*

      When I was an intern, there was an administrative assistant who was older–probably late 50s? (Now that I’m late-50s, I’m having a hard with that estimate; she still seems that she was older than I am now.) She and I sat in the hallway desks/cubicles.

      She used to deliberately declare that she was going to nap at lunch. She’d borrow someone’s office that was out at a meeting (checking w/ them first), and then she’d go in there, close the door, and lie down sort of halfway under the desk. About 30 minutes later, she’d come out.

      It seemed a little odd, but everyone else seemed to think it was reasonable. And I couldn’t think what it was hurting, exactly–it was her lunch break, and no one was disturbed. We weren’t client-facing.

      It seemed very reasonable.

      I think it was better because she flat-out declared it: “This is what I’m going to do with my lunch.” If you nod off, I think that implies that you don’t have a lot of control over your sleepiness, and that you aren’t being proactive to prevent it.

      I do like the table-tent card that says “Do not disturb—I’m meditating.”
      Because you are–it doesn’t have to be organized along some official teaching or discipline; you’re collecting your thoughts.

  2. Detective Amy Santiago*

    In new hire training for my new job, we were told “no sleeping at work” at least five times throughout the two day sessions.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        The dominos my friend worked in had a sign saying no hammocks allowed. I really want to know the story behind that.

        1. Amber T*

          That reminds me of the How I Met Your Mother episode… if you see a ridiculous sign prohibiting something, there’s a great story behind it.

          1. Vicky Austin*

            Like the sign in my hometown that warns people not to drive on the median strip!

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              There’s Hammock Hut, and then…

              Little Jules is watching all the Simpsons – we just watched this one last week.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        It’s a huge company. Probably the #1 employer in my region. So if there is a story, it’s unlikely I’ll ever hear it.

      3. Zk*

        In one job, we had a training room that locked, with the window blacked out. It had been used for pumping as well. One employee would regularly sneak in there, close the door and take a nap. We finally had to start leaving it locked so he couldn’t get in there.

    1. Me*

      It is very much a real thing! We had someone sleeping under his desk just the other day. A concerned employee told one of the managers on duty who visited the “under the desk sleeper” and asked if everything was ok. He was literally sleeping… under his very small desk, practically in the fetal position… as it turns out nothing was wrong, he was just sleepy and wanted to take a quick nap, but it was such a strange thing to see that it caused everyone else to get concerned that their coworker was having some sort of breakdown or health crisis. He was told no more under the desk napping and that he if really felt he needed to nap during the work day he could do so on a couch in one of the break areas….

      1. JS*

        I’ve totally napped under my desk a few times. I was getting over surgery, the flu or food poisoning the times I did. But no one knew I was under there since my desk is L shaped, covered on all sides and I strategically placed my chair (with my coat draped over it) and recycle bins in front. Have new desks now where that isn’t possible but I cant imagine doing it and letting anyone who walked by see.

      2. SophieChotek*

        Of course in the Asian office of my company, a lot of people nap during the 90 minute lunch break. They all have pillow and set it on their desk and sleep at their desk…literally.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I have taken naps at work before. In my previous job where I did not have an office I would find an empty office or storage room that had a chair bring my neck pillow with me and nap. A few times someone walked in on me because they were also looking for a room to nap/relax in. At my current job I have an office where I can close the door and nap during my lunch/break. Here no one bothers you if you have your door closed short of there being a fire. One time I missed out on going with my coworkers to a building sponsored ice cream social because I had my door closed when they were leaving for it and didn’t want to bother me. I had to be very clear afterwards that I could be bothered for two reasons when I had my door closed a fire and free food.

      3. Kathleen_A*

        A few non-related businesses/organizations rent some space in the building my company owns, and one of them did have an employee have some sort of breakdown while working by herself late one night. Her coworkers found her curled up in the fetal position under her desk. But even before this incident, I too would be taken aback (and would be concerned) if I found a coworker curled up under his/her desk. It’s not a comfortable position, after all, so I would assume that only someone in some sort of dire straits would do it.

        1. JustaTech*

          I had a coworker who had horrible, crippling periods, but also a killer work ethic, so she would come in to work, work as long as she could and then curl up under her tiny desk to nap.

          The weird thing there was she shared an office with two other people (a very small office).

      4. Jennifer*

        I’m told one of my former coworkers slept under her desk, with pillow and curtain to hide it. Everyone knew and didn’t care back then, apparently.

    2. Anonymeece*

      And yet, as someone who was appalled I actually had to say that sort of thing in new-hire orientation and ongoing training, I totally get it.

  3. H.C.*

    I agree with “nap in your car” route, if possible – otherwise, are there other businesses nearby (cafes, libraries, bookstores, hotels w lobbies) that you can duck in for a quick nap?

    1. kuff*

      I have past coworkers who napped in their cars during lunch. They were good about ensuring they woke up on time to get back when they were supposed to, so no one made a big deal about it, though that may have been the overall culture of our location. I also have a former coworker who fell asleep at a location on premises that was used for smoke breaks and the like, which happened to be very visible to most of the building. He was discovered there after at least an hour and his absence had been noticed, and he was summarily fired. (He was also a pretty marginal employee to begin with; had he been less of a problem to begin with, he probably would have gotten away with a stern talking-to.)

      So, in short: Nap in your car if possible. Set an alarm that you are sure will wake you up. Enjoy!

      1. Indie*

        My predecessor in old job (reporters job) was famous for taking naps in her car. Editor used to shout ‘where is Kate?’ And co-workers would look out and say “she’s sitting in her car”
        Of course reporters don’t really get breaks and Kate was misguidedly trying to use a job on a newspaper to break into soap opera acting; so make of that what you will.

        1. Bunny*

          Reporter here. I have slept under conference room tables during blizzards and assassinations. I have also anchored breaking news in my jammies because I didn’t have time to get dressed.

          1. Former Lois Lane*

            I worked in newspaper journalism for several years, and my last job had a reporter who had been there forever and was known for falling asleep at random times. Sometimes he went to a little break area with a couch, but other times he just collapsed under his desk. It was jarring at first, but everyone else was used to it. He was a generally nice guy, but suggesting he see a sleep specialist didn’t work; he “didn’t believe” in sleep disorders. I guess the newspaper was just happy to have a loyal employee who didn’t mind making peanuts. It was annoying when he’d go to sleep in the break area near my desk and snore loudly.

            1. Indie*

              I can’t believe I totally forgot this, but your story reminded me of an old patch reporter who was suspected of sleeping in the office pool car. He always had the scoop on his neighbourhood, but we didn’t much appreciate finding random sleepover stuff in the car. One time it was a sock, another time it was a huge bag of rubbish in the car. Which tended to smell somewhat ……lived in. Ah, regional print journalism we miss you.

      2. poolgirl*

        Where I work, a very large employer with several large parking lots, people frequently nap in their cars. Without fail every single time someone will report to security that someone is unconscious in their car and need to be checked on ie they think something must be medically wrong with the person.

        1. TootsNYC*

          If I were going to nap in my car, I think I’d put a sign on the window–“I am napping. I have set an alarm. Please do not disturb me.”

          I’d make it low and discreet, maybe. Because I feel like it could be dangerous somehow, and I wouldn’t want to advertise from a distance that I was sleeping and unaware.

    2. CMart*

      I just got back from a 20 minute car nap. Highly recommended. Far less worry that someone will see me and think something is amiss or judge me, and therefore much more relaxing than trying to “rest my eyes” in a more common area.

    3. Secretary*

      Yup napping in the car is great. I have a few spots I go park in the shade that are far away from my office to prevent being disturbed.

    4. Persimmons*

      +1 for the car option, when feasible. I’ve done it a couple times when I was back from an illness but still weak. Put up a sunshade (even in winter) for extra privacy.

      I babble/yell in my sleep and also tend to swing if someone tries to wake me, so being alone in my car is the only option.

    5. MCL*

      Many public libraries are not excited about having people napping there (to the point where there are formal policies forbidding it), so I would ask about the policy before just putting your head down. There are all sorts of reasons for this, but at the more extreme end, I know of a few libraries where it looked like someone was napping and they were actually having a health emergency, so many libraries won’t allow napping at all, full stop.

      1. OhNo*

        Yeah, I was just going to say this. Even aside from libraries, many businesses are likely to have similar policies. Where I live, anyplace that has a public seating area tends to have restrictions on sleeping – mostly to discourage the homeless population from camping there (I’ll keep my opinions on that to myself, but suffice to say such policies irk me).

        1. Zona the Great*

          Those policies don’t irk me nearly as much as homelessness in America irks me!

    6. Miso*

      If you go to a library or something like that, just make sure you don’t snore…

      So, I actually work in a library. And my coworker sleeps during lunch break every day. We all have the same work times, so we’re closed and no one is working, but daaaang, he’s snoring loud! I totally understand why he often has to sleep on the couch… It’s really annoying when you have to turn your music (with ear buds) up so high because of the frikkin snoring…

      1. TootsNYC*

        He probably has to sleep in the day because he’s not getting good sleep at night due to his snoring. This would have me on his case daily about getting tested for sleep apnea.

    7. Abelard*

      I’ve both napped in my car and in an out of the way basement breakroom that no one usually remembered was there. I don’t know if no one ever noticed, but certainly no one ever commented to me on it. I always made sure I set my phone or watch to wake me up when I needed to be back at work.

    8. Jared (the person who wrote in)*

      I live in the desert. It’s really not viable for me to sleep in my car out in 105 degree weather. I wear a uniform so I can’t really go anywhere else around the complex to find somewhere to sleep; the common break area is the best place to go.

      1. Artemesia*

        Yeah, when your boss tells you not to do something that is sort of the end of the line for that thing. He may well be embarrassed by having his reports sleep on the job — the details of ‘oh it was a break’ won’t matter to his boss who spots your boss’s reports sleeping on the job.

        1. Lunita*

          That seems very unreasonable to me but I guess that’s part of why I work at a (small) nonprofit- much less rigid.

      2. Cucumberzucchini*

        I live in Florida where it is also very hot + humid. I’ve slept in my car before, you just have to have it running with the AC on. You can get a window visor for all the windows, so as an added bonus, nobody can see you’re sleeping.

        I frequently get to meetings early and hang out in my car as I don’t want to be that person waiting in the waiting room super early.

      3. AcademiaNut*

        I do think it sucks that your boss won’t let you relax when you’re showing up to work 15-30 minutes early to account for traffic. That’s not actually a break, because you haven’t started working yet and they’re not paying you for the time!

        What about putting a book or cellphone in front of you like you’re reading, and then glazing over? Or holding the cup of coffee in your hand?

      4. Nic*

        I live in Texas, and it’s hot during the day. We’d cook if we tried to car nap.
        And we’re in a neighborhood where we’ve had gunshots at night, so no one really wants to sleep in their car on night shift.

        Makes things fun. We have approval to use conference rooms for napping.

      5. Cordoba*

        If you have AC and a working parking brake, just idle the car with the air on. It won’t hurt anything, and the fuel consumption at idle is minimal.

    9. Decima Dewey*

      No Sleeping is one of my library system’s posted Standards of Appropriate Behavior. So is No Weapons, and No Bathing or Washing of Clothes.

      At my branch there’s a beanbag chair in a supply room, where it’s okay to nap on your break.

    10. SleepingAverageAppearance*

      I used to work for a company where people napped in their cars on their lunch breaks. I’ve done it a few times myself. My friend once told me the story of how it was late fall/almost winter and he was sleeping in the back seat of his car – he woke up before his alarm went off cuz his feet got so cold!

      If you don’t drive to work, do you know someone that does? That would trust you to “borrow their car” and take a quick snooze?

      Side note: Try not to nap for more than 20 minutes during the day. I’ve seen things that say drink a cup of coffee right before your nap, and it will help you feel more refreshed when you wake up. I don’t drink coffee, so I haven’t tried it, but I’d be interested to know if it actually works!

    11. Star Nursery*

      Agree with this – if you want a lunchtime nap, here are the suggestions from someone I know who rocks lunch naps. Park in the shade, put up sun blocking screens, maybe even drive to a shady lane or park nearby and set a timer on your phone.

  4. Engineer Girl*

    It’s bad optics, especially near a work area. You could probably go out to your car though. Then it is clear you aren’t napping in the work area.

    1. MLB*

      While I agree, and some people will ALWAYS take advantage, if you’re in a common area and not at your desk, it shouldn’t (key word shouldn’t) be a big deal. It’s sad that people are so petty that they need to tattle on other employees to make themselves feel better.

  5. MicroManagered*

    Ideally, in the moment, LW could’ve said “Oh! I know what that person is talking about but I’m actually not sleeping. I sometimes get to work 15-20 minutes early when traffic is clear, so when that happens I sit in the break room with my coffee. Sometimes I close my eyes to give them a rest, but I’m not sleeping. Is that an issue?” But I think you could still frame this as an “about the other day” conversation as well and say more or less the same thing.

    It might be that–since your boss didn’t see you–she doesn’t understand what “LW is sleeping in the break room means” and thinks you’re like camped out laying in a booth. Correcting that perception might be worth doing either way.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Good point–the booths allow for much more flagrant napping, which boss might be picturing..

    2. Alton*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if the OP’s manager is picturing something different than what was actually happening. If I saw someone sitting upright with their eyes closed (but not with their head dropping or anything), I would be more likely to assume they were meditating and it wouldn’t look that weird to me.

      1. NapAttack*

        Yeah, it does actually seem odd to me to jump the conclusion of “sleeping” from this description, and so it’s likely not at all what the boss is picturing and just clarifying that could clear it all up.

        If I saw somebody sitting quietly with their eyes closed, I could think of probably 5-6 things they could be doing and none of them are sleeping. It’s actually really odd to me that a person jumped to “sleeping in the breakroom” because sleeping sitting up is incredibly difficult to do if you’re not experiencing some kind of medical issue causing sleep deprivation, and in that case, tattling on the person when they aren’t actually “at work” is just rude. But maybe I feel that way because I have narcolepsy and the ability to sit and rest like the OP describes is actually vital to my productivity.

      2. TootsNYC*

        though, I once stopped to lean against a building to do the meditation my CBT therapist had prescribed for me, and I had someone interrupt me to ask if I was OK. I’d want a sign.

  6. SoSo*

    I think you could almost argue that you were meditating, rather than sleeping. You were relaxing and clearing your mind before you started work- not drooling on the table, snoring for everyone to hear!

  7. Future Homesteader*

    I 100% get the perception thing, but dang, sometimes it’s just so hard to stay awake at lunch. That said, I always try to go outside or at least find an out-of-the-way corner in the library (the advantages of higher ed) if I *know* I’m going to need to nap. But both schools where I’ve worked have had couches and cushy chairs in the break room, and if people begrudged coworkers taking the occasional nap, no one ever said anything.

    1. kleiopatra*

      Our staff lounge has the most uncomfortable furniture on this earth (very early 80s hard molded plastic with cushions likely holder than me), but there is one assistant who manages to fold her 5’9″ body on that tiny loveseat for a daily nap and I just think … good for you. She makes it happen. ;-)

      1. Abelard*

        When I was at university I found a tumblr account dedicated to images of students on my campus napping in unusual places, some were quite amusing. Some looked quite uncomfortable, some were places I had slept.

        Though my fav was walking into a building for class on Halloween morning and finding a Harry Potter in full Quidditch kit on a bench in a hallway.

        1. kleiopatra*

          Hahaha, that does not surprise me at all, re: students. They seem to be able to sleep any time, anywhere. I wish that I could manage that!

  8. sfigato*

    I worked somewhere with a napping room, and it was used regularly, including by senior staff. Sometimes all you need is twenty minutes and then you are supercharged and ready to go.

    1. Roscoe*

      I did too. The nap room was a great perk.
      I will never understand co-workers who have to be all in everyones business that doesn’t affect them at work

    2. The Original K.*

      My accountant regularly naps during tax season – his hours are pretty much constant during that time. He has a day bed in his office (his office is a suite; the day bed is in the second room) and a “do not disturb” sign and he’ll grab a power nap during the day so that he can work late.

    3. Amber T*

      On the one hand, there are days where I feel like a 20 minute nap would be amazing. But (honest question) did you find that the expectation was that you would spend more of your time/life there, because hey awesome perk?

      1. Roscoe*

        Not who you are responding to. But when we had one, no, they didn’t expect us to spend more time there. They had a great work life balance

    4. ExcelJedi*

      I feel like I would be so much more effective many afternoons if this was an option.

    5. ragazza*

      I don’t know why this isn’t more popular. It’s very common to feel sleepy in the afternoon, and as you say, you just need 20 minutes. When I feel like this I can either go nap in my car or sit at my desk feeling tired and not being able to concentrate for two hours. Which one is more productive?

      1. NapAttack*

        I have a sleep disorder so I’ve done a lot of research about sleep and circadian rhythms and for sure, letting people have 20 minutes to zone out (napping is optional) mid-afternoon would do wonders for productivity for pretty much every human. Even people without a problem in their brain chemistry like me have a natural dip in their energy levels in mid-afternoon. Pounding your way through it by force only makes the time after it worse, but giving in to it and working with it instead can be really great.*

        *Super ton of caveats, this is very individual, I am not a doctor just a person with a related disorder, napping actually can be counterproductive for some people, talk to your physician about your sleep issues, etc. etc. etc.

    6. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Same, the quiet room at my mother’s workplace (which was also briefly my workplace) was absolutely lovely and an adored perk.

      1. Kallisti*

        Also, having a designated napping area at an old job made it much easier for me to sit in the dark waiting for my migraine meds to kick in. I ended up using less sick leave, because I had a space to wait to see if my headache was just a headache or if it was going to get worse. Now I just leave, rather than taking the chance.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Our offices all have a wellness room (we’re a big enough company that we’re required to). It’s technically for nursing mothers, so each room is completely enclosed, has a mini-fridge, and locks, but since the employees are 90% male, most of the time it’s used for quick naps or people with migraines or who just aren’t feeling 100% and need a break. I’ve used it for that (rarely) and I have friends who straight up pimped out the wellness room in their part of the office — it has a lava lamp, extra blankets, and I think a radio or small speaker. They use it all the time when they have long days, early calls, etc.

          1. OhNo*

            As long as nursing mothers get priority, I think that’s a good use of the space. If you’re going to have it set aside anyway, might as well make it useful for multiple groups if you can.

            We have a mothers’ room at my job, that was just added and it was completely unused for a months. People in the building didn’t even know we had it! One guy mentioned that a student was regularly using his office to pump after hours, and he was surprised when I told him there was actually a set space for that on another floor, that had been there for months.

          2. Marion Ravenwood*

            I like that idea!

            My office also has a quiet room – it’s mainly used by Muslim colleagues for daily prayers, but once or twice I’ve gone in there because I needed to get away from my desk and found colleagues asleep…

    7. Quarly*

      At my old job we had a break area with some super comfy chairs. People could read or talk or do anything there. I used it to take a nap and some others did it, too. I don’t understand why napping at work is frowned upon but drinking coffee/watching a TV show/anything else is not. It makes no sense

    8. On Fire*

      I woke up while passing a truck on the interstate, on my way home from work one day. (I was driving.) The next afternoon I felt absolutely exhausted again. Closed my door and took a 10-minute nap. I figure 10 minutes might be worth potentially saving my and others’ lives.
      If I didn’t have a private office, I would have gone to my car. Sometimes you do what you have to do.

    9. I Herd the Cats*

      Our office has a napping room — it’s also a privacy room where nursing mothers can go to pump if we’re hosting a conference, but it gets way more use by regular employees. Some of us have migraines and it’s hugely useful to take a 20 minute break in the dark. It’s got a couch and a lounge chair, nothing fancy. Our CEO also power-naps in his office most afternoons so he gets it.

  9. Roscoe*

    This is one of those stupid things that makes no sense, but its likely not worth fighting your boss over. I think there are just some busy body people in work places who feel the need to run to your boss and tattle, even though its something that has no effect on them. I mean, it depends on your relationship with your boss. If you are good employee with a good relationship, I would go ahead and maybe push back a bit. But if not, its not worth fighting. Sometimes it really is just about perception from other departments. I know I’ve had bosses before who commented about me leaving right at 5pm. They just said it looks bad to other departments when I leave right then (even though of course, the fact that I was in before most people didn’t matter).

    1. Amber T*

      Agreed. This is one of those things where I would love to go up to the coworker in question and just ask “please explain to me how this affects you?” Because it doesn’t. This whole perception thing is crap. It’s true, but it’s crap. If you’re not snoozing through your shift, getting other people to cover you, if you’re not drooling up a storm or snoring or taking up five seats so other people can’t sit and relax, who cares? But apparently someone does. That’s just dumb.

      OP – I would clear it up with your boss that you *weren’t* snoring/drooling/taking up five seats, that you were literally just sitting there with your eyes closed, because even if that’s not allowed, there’s a big difference in consciousnesses between the two.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        “This whole perception thing is crap.”

        Seriously. It’s one of those things that has (some) validity, in general, but it gets co-opted a lot by people who don’t want to do hard management things like explaining when something their worker does isn’t affecting the person who’s complaining.

        For a really long time I considered any conversation about “optics” to be a sign that my manager sucked at managing because of a previous supervisor that would pass on every. little. tiny. complaint. other people had about how I worked—everything from not doing my job right (in their opinion and contrary to established procedure) to how I used my PTO (since didn’t I realize if I took the time off that my supervisor had approved, it would leave the department short-staffed, which is obviously my fault?!)—and those complaints would be bookended with a reminder that “perception is reality.”

        I asked whether my supervisor had ever considered telling my coworkers to keep their eyes on their own papers, but no, of course not, it was much easier to scold me for sh!t I couldn’t control/anticipate than it would be to attempt to address/avoid the problems at all. /rant

    2. Penny*

      I agree so many busy bodies at work looking at what else everyone is doing instead of minding their own business.

    3. PlainJane*

      I know Alison has said in the past that there’s no such thing as tattling at work, but this is a good example of what I would call tattling – complaining about a co-worker’s completely harmless behavior.

      1. NapAttack*

        I personally have a “most of what we call tattling is just being told about a problem we don’t feel like dealing with” stance in the vast majority of life, but this is completely tattling IMHO. It could be the definition of being a busybody.

      2. MLB*

        100% agree. I’m so glad I don’t work in a huge office anymore – no drama, no gossip…it’s glorious!

  10. Anon4This*

    In addition to meditating, you could go a step further and tell the boss that you’re not napping; and that you use that before work/break time time to pray with your eyes closed. That will likely get them off your back.

    1. ExcelJedi*

      I wouldn’t lie about something like this. Meditation is pretty neutral, but if you’re not religious or don’t want to be perceived as religious, I wouldn’t pretend to be.

      (In my case, I’m not religious, and it would come off as odd if I ever mentioned that later, or got confused when someone asked me if I went to church. In some professions, though, it might mark you as an anomaly.)

      1. Vicky Austin*

        There are plenty of people who don’t go to church or officially belong to any organized religion, but still pray from time to time. What’s that saying about atheists and foxholes?

        1. ExcelJedi*

          That may be true, but if you’re not one of those people who do pray (again, like me!), using it as an explanation is pretty disingenuous. Like any other lie, it’ll just be out there, waiting to bite you when you slip up.

        2. Clisby Williams*

          That saying is pretty silly. Let’s see, I’m in a foxhole being shot at by total strangers who want to murder me, and somehow this is supposed to inspire belief in a god? Might work for you, but I’m not feeling it.

        3. Ego Chamber*

          “What’s that saying about atheists and foxholes?”

          Okay? I’ve been in bed with a lot of people who screamed “oh god” and none of them ever asked me to go to church the next morning, so what’s you’re point?

  11. Kai Jones*

    I’ve napped at work many times. I don’t understand the objection, and anytime a busybody raised it with my bosses they were told they obviously didn’t have enough to do if they had time to worry about what I was doing. I’ve napped when I was pregnant or recovering from surgery; I’ve napped just because I didn’t sleep well the night before. I’m a legal secretary and this happened at law offices, either in the break room or in the office of one of my bosses (who had approved me using that office to nap).

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      When I was pregnant, I fell asleep at my desk several times. I had no nausea; my only early symptom was bone-crushing fatigue. Either no one complained, or no one noticed (I have an office with a door, but it would have been open). I don’t understand why it’s grounds for immediate firing at so many places.

      1. Lily Moon*

        This exact same thing happened to me, except I wasn’t pregnant. I was getting over a very bad illness and had a bit of leftover fatigue, and I fell asleep at my desk for a few minutes. I woke up before anyone noticed, but my boss would have freaked the F out if she’d seen me. I totally get why you shouldn’t sleep on the job, but certain situations like that can’t always be helped.

      2. Starbuck*

        I imagine it makes a big difference if you’re hourly vs salaried, and on a break or not. I’m salaried and often work extra hours, so who’s going to begrudge me 20 minutes here or there for a nap? But an hourly person napping on the clock is like stealing time.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Why are you taking breaks while you’re on the clock? That isn’t how breaks are supposed to work… ;P

            1. Ev*

              I’m hourly and I get 15 minute paid breaks periodically throughout the day. My longer lunch breaks are unpaid. I see no reason why anyone should care if nap during either of those times, so long as I’m not disturbing others.

      3. KAZ2Y5*

        I work the night shift in a hospital and it is immediate grounds for firing (except for the drs, but their hours are even crazier than ours). I think the reason is they want everyone to be alert at work and not stay up all day assuming you can take a nap at work.

    2. irene adler*

      I like your bosses.
      Clearly they can discern what is truly important- your well-being.
      How come the busy bodies can’t?

      1. There All Is Aching*

        Right? Perhaps because busybodies are almost by definition unable to detect anything beyond their own well-being, i.e. other people’s.

  12. savethedramaforyourllama*

    Someone with eyes closed, but who is sitting upright, with fresh coffee in front of them, in the breakroom, first thing in the morning could easily be meditation/prayer. Coworker who tattled is a bit of a busy body and the boss is fortunate it wasn’t a religiously-tied activity. I could see if it was 2pm, head slumped on desk, but this scenario is different.

    1. Monsters of Men*

      I come into work and take five minutes after my commute and opening the office to breathe in, reflect, and get ready for the day. It’s not unusual to do so.

      I have napped at work when I worked retail, but I have a rather large open trunk in my SUV that has a pull-cover. So I stashed a sleeping bag in there, pulled the pull-cover, set an alarm, and no one bothered me. Everyone just assumed I was at lunch or something.

      1. Red 5*

        Yeah, I actually take the first 10 minutes of my day to get settled in, get my workstation set up and get in the right “mode” for work. Once I started actually designating that part of my day for actually taking the time to properly start my day rather than frantically scrambling to be “on” the second I walked in the door, my work improved tenfold.

        I get that this isn’t feasible in every work situation and I have my issues about coworkers who have done things like that in the past, especially in retail or shift work, but it really can be helpful and productive. I wish more offices encouraged that kind of time management actually.

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          Agreed. My first 5-10 minutes in the office is making coffee, filling my water bottle, getting my notebook/pen out and looking at what I have on for the day. I find that if I can get myself settled and switched into ‘work mode’ with that ritual I have a much more productive day, whereas when I come in flustered and don’t have time to settle I end up all over the shop.

    2. Essess*

      That’s what I started thinking…. tell the boss you were praying and see how fast he/she backtracks. :-D

  13. ToodieCat*

    Our company is super casual (Fit Flops and capris all summer for me) but the one clear, concrete thing you can get from the employee handbook is that being caught sleeping at work is grounds for immediate firing.

    1. PlainJane*

      There seems to be a weird stigma about sleeping anywhere outside your house, and I don’t quite understand why. Sleeping at work (even on a break) is grounds for firing, and people who nap in a park or library get treated like criminals. Why? Everyone needs sleep, and short naps have been shown to have health and productivity benefits. So why is a quick nap seen as a terrible offense?

      1. sunny-dee*

        Sleeping in public places has this weird feeling of being both invasive and overly private. Like, a public library isn’t for napping — it’s for reading. So it feels a little jarring, like you’re misusing the space.

        At work, I think the general perception is that you should be at work and alert, and if you’re napping (kind of like playing on your phone or reading a book), you’re not doing your job.

        1. Rebeck*

          A public library is a community space. Not “a place for reading”. You can read there. You can also talk, knit, use the computer, play with the interactive floor or the gaming consoles that are available, and in every library I’ve worked in – sleep. Just don’t lie down on top of the tables to do so.

      2. anonarama*

        My library used to let people nap until the a guy died and everyone thought he was just sleeping until the end of the day when someone went to wake him up and he was dead. So we don’t allow napping anymore.

      3. Delphine*

        I imagine it’s partly cultural. Sleeping in public would be a positive in some places. Shows you’ve been working hard. In others it’s somehow a sign of slacking off.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          I saw tons of people sleeping on the trains in Tokyo, it’s like an art form or something, but I don’t think Tokyo has the same issues with homeless populations like the Stats have (that’s the reason we’re not allowed to sleep in public here and why the park benches have those extra “arm rests” every 2-3 feet or so).

      4. Marion Ravenwood*

        I think a lot of it depends on where you’re sleeping and what time of day/year it is. In the UK, sleeping on the grass in a park on a sunny day would be perfectly acceptable. Sleeping on a bench, not so much. Similarly, sleeping on the train in the morning rush hour is kind of OK, but sleeping on the train home is often associated with having been out drinking and can lead to negative perceptions.

  14. Former call centre worker*

    We used to have an office meditator. He would use his breaks to sit at his desk, eyes closed, legs crossed (in the manner that you might sit cross-legged on the floor, except on a desk chair). This was in a call centre so not exactly a peaceful environment! Nobody minded him doing this, but because it’s an unusual thing to do in that setting, it was frequently remarked on and I think didn’t help him to present the best image of himself professionally.

    If you’re going to do this and your boss OKs it, it would be best to consider if you’re OK with being known as the office sleeper or thought of as having been up too late the night before.

    1. pleaset*

      I know someone who did slept at the office.

      He owned it. He didn’t try to hide that he was doing it from other staff.

      He told us to be at his best he wanted to take a brief nap and he did it behind closed doors so outsiders would not see it.

      That was in the US. I also worked in a place with siestas after lunch (a university in South China) and many people would go home for lunch and a nap. Some people had cots in their office.

    2. LPUK*

      When I had an office, I used to nap with my head on the edge of a desk, my phone tucked into my shoulder and my hand in a filing drawer… that way if someone came in I could pretend I was on the phone and searching for information!

      Later on, when I was a manager in a really large open-plan office, I would get migraines and light sensitivity, so I would take a prescription pill and put a coat over my head. I’m sure it looked comical but no one minded. The work got done just the same.

      1. Random Canuck*

        When I’m in desperate need of a nap (once or twice a year) then I will put my hand on the mouse / keyboard and open a complicated spreadsheet – if anyone drops by then it looks like I’m trying to sort out some math.

        1. NapAttack*

          Before I knew what was wrong with me, I was very good at finding the one angle where I could close my eyes without getting caught and setting alarms for five minutes so I could just get a little rest. And I’d always leave a file open on my desk with a pen open on top so people would think I was just reading something I had to go over.

          1. Jennifleurs*

            Another stealth napper here! (sleep centre said there was nothing wrong grrr)

            At Old Job, as well as napping legitimately in the break area, I could swing my hair forwards to cover my eyes from the sides and open a spreadsheet. I’d wake up if my head dipped, or if there was any noise in the otherwise silent room.

            Not looking forward to not sleeping at new job.

    3. Oska*

      A colleague at my previous job napped in his chair, in an open office. Head tilted back, open mouth, arms hanging limp at his sides. The rest of us were just in awe at his ability to shut down like that. (At one point someone mentioned something about this being common in offices in… Japan maybe? I don’t know if this guy was Japanese, though.)

      I don’t know that he ever got in trouble for it, but then again this was a weird office and management was very hands-off.

  15. Nervous Accountant*

    Interesting. I’m pretty lax about this stuff, off the clock is off the clock and no ones business what I do (I mean.. I put makeup on or clean out my desk or read a book).

    We habe a small conference room here used exactly for personal reasons…phone calls, conversations, reading a book, and yes definitely napping. The other rooms are more for clients or using the computer. It’s actually kind of annoying to see the room constantly used for people napping but the culture here allows it so.

  16. KHB*

    In this case, since you’re not actually napping, it seems like the easiest fix would be to find a way to rest and relax with your coffee with your eyes open. If you just zoned out and stared into space for a while, would that completely kill your relaxation routine?

    1. Alton*

      I don’t know about the OP, but I know that just closing my eyes for a few minutes (even if I don’t nod off at all) can make me feel more rested. Zoning out with my eyes open doesn’t have the same effect.

      1. Inspector Spacetime*

        I think they did a Mythbusters episode on this? Something about closing your eyes for a while is restful, even if you’re not asleep.

        1. NapAttack*

          Yup, closing your eyes and having them open can actually make a world of difference in a lot of ways, but especially if you’re aiming to be more rested and “together” afterwards.

          Plus there’s the fact that all of us that use computers a lot probably have eye strain so we should be resting those rods and cones whenever we’ve got a moment.

  17. kleiopatra*

    I’m lucky enough to work slightly off-campus in a very private office — getting used to the napping culture here when I first started was kinda difficult. But speaking as someone who just took an amazing lunchtime nap after a long night with a sick puppy — it is THE ABSOLUTE BEST.

    That said, we’ve got a new boss starting soon and I’ll probably stop my napping routine.

    (Mostly because I’ve been using his empty office as a nap pod.) ;-)

        1. Tangerina*

          Busybody: hats are disrespectful indoors.

          Busybodies can twist anything ; whatever gets them attention!

    1. misspiggy*

      Yes, after having explained to the boss that you’re meditating. (Which appears to be exactly what is happening – one doesn’t need fancy chants or poses to meditate.)

  18. Chocolate lover*

    Thankfully I have my own office, so if I need to close my eyes and put my head down, I can. On two really extreme occasions this year when my pre-existing fatigue issues were aggravated, I locked my door, turned off the light, and laid down on the floor in the back of the office, behind my desk, and set an alarm on my phone. I’ve never had to do that before, but I literally could not stay awake.

    I don’t have a car, so hiding there wouldn’t be an option.

    1. Astrid*

      I regularly pull all-nighters (sometimes multiple per week), so I’ve been in this situation more than once. I was so happy when I was assigned an office with a George Costanza-like desk — I can easily curl up underneath and no one entering my office would even know I’m sacked out on the floor.

  19. JSPA*

    I know that “meditation as religious practice” is (for whatever reason) something of a cultural flashpoint in some corners. So before my comment, the boilerplate disclaimer: I do not intend to imply that all or most meditation is religious, nor that all or most meditation is a culture-specific practice, nor do I intend to trivialize the practice of meditation by suggesting that it can look a lot like napping. That said, if it does not offend your own sense of identity (religious, cultural or otherwise), you could mention that for you, this is a brief spiritual as well as physical refreshment, and ask your boss where (if not the lunchroom) you should sit, to engage in that practice.

    Alternatively, you could bring up the cost-benefit of avoiding a full-blown medical problem. Eyestrain is a real thing. If you’re feeling a need to rest your eyes, your boss might prefer to have you close them–at some appropriate location–rather than go through the bother of having a diagnosed, work-related condition that could require significantly more accommodation.

    Sleeping in your car (where you might be seen by a client) is actually, IMHO, more likely to register as “has issues / had too much last night.”

    But frankly, if you can find 15 minutes of “stuff you do at home in the evening before bed” that could instead be shifted to “stuff I do on my break at work,” getting an extra 15 minutes sleep every evening might also do the trick.

  20. Rusty Shackelford*

    Did your boss not understand that this wasn’t a break, because you hadn’t started your workday yet? In fact, I’d want to go to my boss and clarify. “I understand that you don’t want me to nap during breaks. But I often get to work 30 minutes before my shift starts, and I like to relax or meditate in the break room with my eyes closed. Are you saying you don’t want me to do that either?”

  21. Burnett*

    It honestly seems weird to me that someone would have made an issue of this if LW is sleeping before work hours actually begin. I’m assuming different shifts are at play, and maybe the person who told their boss doesn’t know what shift LW works? Still seems like a squirrelly thing to do – why not just ask LW about it, rather than immediately ratting them out to their boss?

    1. savethedramaforyourllama*

      or why wouldn’t the boss ASK about it rather than just assume the info he got was 100% correct (no, I wasn’t sleeping – yes, it was before my shift started)

    2. MLB*

      I don’t find it weird. Some people make it their mission to tattle on others to try and get them into trouble to make themselves feel better. At my last job I felt like I was back in school with all the drama and gossip, instead of a work place with grown adults. It’s sad that people can’t mind their own business when someone is doing something that doesn’t affect them or their ability to do their job.

      Like you mention, if I knew the person and thought they might be slacking off I may ask them about it to keep them from getting into trouble. But I certainly wouldn’t go directly to their boss.

  22. The Cosmic Avenger*

    Can you modify your desk so there’s room to sleep underneath? And space for an alarm clock? Just use a digital one, not analog, or the boss might mistake the ticking for a bomb!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      But the LW isn’t actually sleeping or trying to sleep. And we don’t even know that she has a desk.

    2. Jen*

      I think that sleeping under one’s desk would be way more alarming than someone closing their eyes in a break room, but I do wonder what others think. Perhaps napping under a desk is the norm these days.

    3. On Fire*

      I know the reference, but I know someone who actually did this. He was working 2 jobs and regularly got to work an hour early because of horrendous traffic. He had a sleeping bag and pillow under his desk, which was back in a corner away from clients. His director knew about it and was fine, because he was always awake and at his computer before his shift started.

  23. Silicon Valley Girl*

    In the dining area though, why should the boss care? If the employee is at their desk with their eyes closed (or head down or otherwise appearing to nap), yeah, makes sense that it would look like sleeping on the job. But this is in a booth in the dining area, where there are TVs going & people are eating, & it’s explicitly NOT a designated working area. I’d push back on the boss just a little bit.

    1. Collarbone High*

      I agree. It’s a break room; the people using it are on break. If it’s not OK to close your eyes because “ZOMG, people might think you’re sleeping on the clock,” then how is it OK to watch TV?

    2. sunny-dee*

      I know the OP wasn’t sleeping, but the other coworkers have no way of knowing that. They may have felt pushed out of the room and overreacted, like, “I can’t even get my morning coffee because Joe is sleeping in there.” Most people wouldn’t want to invade anyone’s privacy.

      I’m obviously grasping there, but if there isn’t already a designated “private space” like some other commenters seem to have, then it feels wrong to go into a room where someone is sleeping. Like you’re interrupting them or violating their privacy.

      1. Allison*

        Hm, I hadn’t thought of that but it does make sense, it could make others uncomfortable if they wanted to use the room for other purposes.

  24. CBE*

    A pox on all office busybodies who think someone sitting at a table with eyes closed is a reportable offense!

    1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      OP should continue to sit in the same place, but with her eyes wide open. Sure as green apples, the tattletale will be checking up on her to make sure that she isn’t still sleeping after being tattled on. What can she say to the boss? OP was sitting still with her eyes open?

  25. Wendy*

    I agree with the comments about telling the boss you are meditating. The only issue is it might seem fishy as this was not immediately offered when the boss queried this. I would say you were caught off guard and you often like to relax and breathe before work just as other people like a chat or play on the mobile. I would ask if there are limitations to what is a relaxing activity in your own private time before work. I would almost be clear that noises in the break room do not disturb you, this is how you relax. The only question I have is that is it possible the busy body that told was using the break room and saw you napping, and somehow they thought they were disturbing you? I know it doesn’t excuse them interfering but maybe in their silly head they felt uncomfortable talking or turning on the tv thinking it will disturb someone who looks like they are sleeping?

  26. Hope*

    If your work bathroom has stalls and is relatively quiet in the morning, you could try camping out in a stall. It’s less than ideal, but a possibility if you don’t drive a car to work. I have retreated to the bathroom every once in awhile just to close my eyes for a few minutes on break (getting to my car involves a 10 minute walk, so it’s not really an option for a quick break).

    1. Issa*

      Honestly as gross as it sounds that tends to be my go to for quick naps. I don’t have a desk and our parking garage is a ten minute walk (So I’d use up 2/3 of my break just getting to and from the car for a nap and a ten minute nap isn’t useful). So I just bring wet wipes, wipe it down, and just camp out in a stall.

      1. NapAttack*

        Before I knew what was wrong with me, I had a job where that was the only place I could close my eyes for a few minutes so I fell asleep in a stall way more than once. Same deal with the car, it was way too far out for that to be feasible, and open plan office with somebody who was aiming to get me fired sitting a couple desks away.

    2. The OP*

      I’m not going to take a nap in a bathroom stall, lol. At best, it would look like I have a problem if someone caught me and at worst someone might think I had a heart attack or something.

  27. stump*

    I’d be wary of napping in your car where your coworkers can see you. I’m reminded of a time at my old retail job when one of my coworkers was napping in her car in the parking lot and a customer flagged down a manager to let her know that somebody was potentially OD’ing in the parking lot. (Fun fact: We actually had somebody OD on heroin in the store a few months before that and had to call 911. :/ ) We jokingly suggested the next time she car napped, she should put a sign in the window that said, “I’m fine, just napping!” So yeah, even resting your eyes/meditating/napping in your car could cause the same sorts of problems!

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I was thinking this too. Unless you park in a lot with an attendant or something, I feel like this could easily backfire thanks to a concerned passerby.

    2. Emi.*

      I have definitely bothered car nappers a couple times because I thought they had collapsed from heatstroke or whatever!

    3. Bea*

      Unless it’s a rest area or well monitored, someone asleep in a car will most likely cause alarm. I’m glad it was a false alarm but it’s good someone did alert management of the issue!

    4. TootsNYC*

      not to mention, there’s a bit of a danger there–you’re out in the public area. I just remember that Michael Jordan’s dad was killed when he stopped to nap by the side of the road.

      Granted, daytime in a big parking lot among other cars is not the same as a flashy car on the shoulder at the intersection of two highways, but…

  28. Sleepytime Tea*

    It is a perception thing, but it’s funny how this can vary really widely in workplace culture. I have worked at a number of companies where people straight up taking naps on breaks is completely normal, and seeing someone sitting with their eyes closed is barely something worth noticing.

    That said I was taking my breaks sitting in front of the fireplace at my current job (where it would be no big deal to see someone sitting with their eyes closed on their break) and even though I was just taking my regular breaks at my regular times in the regular break area, apparently it gave my director the impression that I was never working and he made a comment to my supervisor. I had to start switching up where I took my breaks so I wasn’t in his general path and wouldn’t see me so often because just seeing me there every day was giving him the impression that I was “never” at my desk. Honestly I think part of it was that I like to play games on my phone on my breaks (gives my brain a rest) and he seemed to take that as an indicator of someone who is lazy.

    1. Specialk9*

      You might get a discreet Bluetooth ear bud, and listen to audiobooks from the library instead.

      But also he sounds like a nightmare. You might ask your boss for clarification about taking your breaks, that you’re thinking of not taking them since this manager keeps dinging you for taking your breaks. (Especially if your industry has mandatory breaks, or limited hours you can charge.)

    2. Ego Chamber*

      “Hey, Sleepytime’s Manager, can I talk to you for a second? I take my breaks at roughly the same time every day and whenever I go into the break room, I see Sleepytime in there! The entire 5 minutes I’ve seen her in the past month, she’s been in the break room! She’s basically never at her desk—you should talk to her about it!”

      What the actual eff. You should not have to take breaks at different locations to avoid being spotted by higher-ups… but it’s probably the best solution to this (completely unreasonable) problem.

  29. ann*

    Oy, I am going to voice an unpopular opinion and take the stance “do not sleep at work!” It’s a job, even if you’re on a break, no no no no no. I am shocked by how many people think this is OK (or should be OK “in theory”) and are so indignant that someone reported this letter writer. I do think exceptions make sense for those with a medical condition or pregnancy, but 99% of people should not even consider sleeping at work, not on a break, not even for a minute. It’s just so inappropriate and displays poor judgment, lack of maturity, or motivation, etc.

    1. seller of teapots*

      I am indignant at the person who reported this because….it doesn’t actually involve them. If the OP’s manager saw the eyes closed and said something on their own, that makes sense. It’s not that I think sleeping is a good idea when you are working; it’s that I think people should only go to a manager about someone else when the offending person’s behavior is either a) impacting the speaker’s work (i.e. he sleeps through the meetings I have with him) or b) actually offensive (i.e. hate speech, sexist remarks, etc.)

      Also, if I saw someone sitting upright with a cup of coffee and closed eyes at the start of the work day, I would think “meditation” before I would think “sleeping,” but I meditate most days so perhaps I’m biased.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I’m curious too. If someone is on their break, when they could be freely texting friends or perusing Facebook on their phone or doing yoga, why is sleeping off-limits?

        1. Jen*

          Because our society has a perception that if one naps they must be lazy or slacking off somehow. I remember napping at my house after a particularily busy day and my mother in law randomly stopping by and expressing her horror to my husband that I shirked my responsibilities with the house and kids and GASP… napped. Why take a nap when there are toilets that need scrubbing! LOL – I think that it is the same attitude often at work. Someone napping must be leaving work unattended and squandering away their day by being lazy. When in reality, it is probably the busiest, most productive people who nap… a power nap is a great way to recharge. This is why so many popular employers have nap pods.

      2. Random Canuck*

        I am also curious about why, especially if one happens to work at a job with no client or customers, no hourly salary (whatever the US term is for someone who gets a set yearly wage), and the person works their expected hours. Sleep is such a fundamental part of our health, and some nights I just don’t get enough, so by mid-afternoon I need a few minutes. I do it because nobody cares, and in fact they would likely be supportive as it makes me much more productive! I try to be discreet, and I think that the LW is displaying reasonable judgement by doing it in the break room and not snoring. I realise that in some places this is not acceptable, but to view that it is not acceptable anywhere at any time is… not to accept cultures that are different than one’s own.

    2. Roscoe*

      I think its one thing to silently judge someone because you don’t agree with it. Its very different to go to their boss about it. That is just being a tattle tale. It doesn’t affect that person one bit.

      I disagree with your assessment that it should NEVER be done, but you are welcome to not do it. Its like being against things that don’t affect you. If you think napping at work = bad, then you don’t have to nap at work. see how simple that is?

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think there are a variety of jobs and a variety of workplaces. Some, you would never even close your eyes. Others, you could absolutely take a few moments. I don’t think it’s a hard and fast rule, as you do. Granted, I say this as someone who closed her office door this afternoon and did a 10-minute guided meditation. Someone may have looked a bit sideways at me if they saw me, but I don’t think I would have lost their respect. However, when I worked in a cube farm in a very junior position, I would never have put my head on my desk to ease a headache. Every workplace is different.

      1. peachie*

        Re: cube farm/junior position–I wouldn’t either, but the fact that that’s not acceptable bums me out. Like, I get the optics of it, but I couldn’t count how many hours I’ve spent with a headache staring at a screen, unable to get anything done and ending the day in so much more pain than was necessary. And I’ve found that the workplaces that are the the most punitive over this sort of thing are often the same workplaces that implicitly or explicitly discourage the use of sick time.

    4. Quickbeam*

      I strongly agree with you. As a night nurse most of my career I got really fed up with the “cat nappers” who ended up nearly comatose for hours, ignoring their patients.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I agree that you can’t end up sleeping for hours (that would be a problem in any job, same as someone being on Facebook all day instead of working would be a problem!). But during their break when they’re off the clock – in the “average” office job – I don’t see it as a problem. I’m not a nurse or in the medical field so maybe that’s different. But in my run-of-the-mill office job, how I spend my break doesn’t affect anyone else.

        1. sunny-dee*

          No, I think what EddierSherbert is saying is that the nap didn’t perk them up, it made them groggy and slow. So, they only “napped” on their break, but it affected their performance for a very long time.

    5. ceiswyn*

      Taking a ten-minute nap during a break in order to refresh yourself is *poor* judgment? And forcing yourself to stay awake unnecessarily, resulting in loss of cognitive ability and focus, is *good* judgment?

      Are you sure you don’t want to think about that a bit more?

    6. Quarly*

      What? So you can watch TV, work out, browse the net and read ask a manager during your break, you can drink coffee but you can’t engage in an activity that has been scientifically proven to improve performance and refresh people better than caffeine?

      1. sunny-dee*

        Possibly. I have definitely had naps that perked me up, and 20 minutes made all the difference. I have also had naps where I was more exhausted and unfocused at the end than I was at the beginning, and even though naptime was over, I was feeling it for the rest of the day.

        1. Quarly*

          Coffee makes me sleepy but I don’t think it’s unprofessional to drink it at work…

    7. VintageLydia*

      You say pregnancy should be an exception but the period of pregnancy with the MOST amount of fatigue is in the first trimester when the pregnant person is not obviously pregnant ans likely has not announced their pregnancy. And many medical conditions that involve fatigue are otherwise invisible. Reporting them could force someone to reveal something they otherwise didn’t want or need to. A quick cat nap during my own time isn’t hurting anyone, especially since it can facilitate better productivity during the time my employer IS paying me.

    8. NapAttack*

      Okay, I realize I’m coming at this as somebody with a medical condition. But because I have a medical condition that takes, on average, 15-20 years to diagnose because of bias both in the general public and among medical professionals that people who need/want to nap when they “should be” doing something else are just lazy, there’s a lot about this attitude that I actually find can end up being very hurtful to a lot of people who don’t deserve it. Plus it’s the lynchpin of an attitude that is harmful to our society as a whole.

      If you’re on a break, or you’re not on the clock, and you are tired enough that if you closed your eyes you will fall asleep, then you’re kind of past the point where you should have already been asleep in a way. Yes, if you’re sitting at your desk as a receptionist greeting customers, you shouldn’t be napping at your desk. But when you’re not on the clock, you’re not on the clock.

      Leaving aside the fact that nobody owns you when you’re not on the clock, there’s the fact that there are a large number of very legitimate reasons for a person to be tired enough to want to rest for ten to fifteen minutes during the regular work day. Not all of them are long-term medical conditions like mine, not all of them are pregnancy. Absolutely not one single one of them involves poor judgement, lack of maturity, or motivation.

      Brief periods of acute insomnia (which something like 95% of adults experience) are not anybody’s fault. They’re not poor judgement, they’ve got absolutely zip to do with motivation, and the stigma that being tired during the day is the person’s “fault” is why a lot of people actually can move from acute to chronic insomnia which is so much harder to treat and just makes it all worse. “Normal people aren’t so tired, normal people can sleep, why can’t I be normal…”

      The human body has circadian rhythms. Some people’s rhythms aren’t lined up exactly with their work shift because work shifts generally aren’t designed with real humans in mind, they’re designed for profits and productivity. There is nothing that person can do, nothing, about the fact that at about 3 p.m. they start to lag and have trouble focusing. And the science is overwhelming that fighting that lag and chastising yourself for it is going to make everything worse.

      The science of sleep and sleepiness is vast and complicated and poorly understood by most people. And the perception problem about sleeping at work is rooted in a bias that is actually not supported by the science.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        “There is nothing that person can do, nothing, about the fact that at about 3 p.m. they start to lag and have trouble focusing.”

        Random anecdata for you: I recently cut back on carbs a lot (with a focus on eliminating as much added sugar as possible) and I’ve never slept better in my life. I don’t get the afternoon sleepies or lose focus throughout the day anymore and, at least for me, I think it was largely related to my diet.

        Everything about how people function is vast and complicated and poorly understood by most people. :)

    9. Indie*

      I’m with you Ann! The prevailing opinion has greatly astonished me. Thinking about it though, I’ve never had a job where it would be practical to nap. Either there were visitors/clients walking around (yes the break area too) or there were no formal break times (grabbing a drink while it’s quiet but you may be needed at any moment). Maybe its my background but I have to say I’d find it off putting to be around unless the napper was very discreet and invisible. Otherwise I’d wonder if they were genuinely ok or if I was required to tiptoe around them. Having your eyes closed for a bit is not napping though.

  30. seller of teapots*

    I come to work early specifically *to* meditate. (With a toddler at home, it’s much harder to find the quiet space alone there.) And on those days that I meditate, I am much more focused and productive. There’s lots of science to back that up. Typically, I get in before anyone else on those days, and I have my own office, so it’s a bit easier to pull off, but sheesh–you’re coworker who complained about you closing your eyes before the start of work should really mind their own business

  31. twig*

    I want to recommend car-napping on lunch if you can swing it. I used to do this at an old job. Here’s how I’d do it;
    Find a parking lot/spot with shade.
    Park in the shade
    Crack the windows open enough for a breeze
    Turn on the radio so that I don’t completely fall asleep (this was pre-smart phone — I’d probably use my phone instead of my car radio to preserve car battery now)

    the shade/breeze combination was enough for me to be comfortable in temperatures into the upper 90’s — (though, I’m in the high desert, so it was a nice dry upper 90’s)

  32. Cait*

    Unless you’re in a “clock in, clock out” environment, it seems kinda weird to me to show up to work early and then wait to start working. I totally get taking some time to grab coffee, get ready to start the day, but sitting in a booth and actively *not* working until just when you have to does seem odd to me.

    Not odd enough to say something because that’s just me but I can definitely see why someone else might have an issue with the perception.

    1. Alton*

      Eh, anyone who’s hourly or non-exempt might have a fixed start time, and it’s not uncommon for people to arrive a little early, intentionally or not. I’m non-exempt and usually get to work anywhere from 10-20 minutes early because I take the bus. If I started working as soon as I got in, that would be overtime.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Maybe the OP is in that kind of environment. You can’t tell from the post. And even if that’s not the case, I don’t think it’s odd to hang out and relax before you start your day. If it’s not weird to stay at home for that extra 15 minutes and watch TV, it’s not weird to do it at work.

    3. BlueWolf*

      Before my shuttle schedule changed, I would sometimes get to work as much as 30 minutes early. I have a set schedule (non-exempt), so I would get breakfast in our cafeteria and eat and read news or Facebook or whatever. I don’t see how that’s any different than someone taking a few moments to rest their eyes.

      1. Cait*

        Exactly what I meant by “clock in, clock out”. If the OP is non-exempt or hourly, then hanging out before their official start time makes sense and whoever reported OP is lame.

        But if the OP is exempt and is just hanging out, then yeah, it still seems odd to me. It makes the OP look like they aren’t energized and motivated to get their day going (even if they totally are). Hanging around until a start time when they could be working (again, doesn’t apply if they are non-exempt or hourly), comes across as unmotivated and a maybe a bit disconnected.

        It’s no different than staying home and relaxing except for it is different because it is at work, in view of colleagues, so it becomes a perception thing.

  33. Phil*

    My father and grandfather took naps every day at work after lunch. They even had day beds in their offices. It helped that it was a family business. And the office had to be QUIET during nap time. This was during the days of the accounting machine so no posting during nap time. Or much else.
    I didn’t go into the family business but I take a nap every day myself. Must be genetic.

  34. you don't know me*

    Sounds similar to the set up at my old job but there a lot of people napped in the break room. I don’t see anything wrong with resting while you are on your own time. Before work and breaks/lunches are your own time. At my current job there isn’t a nice break area but I have seen some people go to their cars and take a nap during lunch.

  35. RB*

    The boss and co-workers must have missed the dozens of studies that say that a nap is one of the best ways to recharge during the work day and really increases productivity.

  36. CupcakeCounter*

    When I was pregnant I would regularly go take a nap on a chaise lounge that was tucked into a secluded corner fairly close to my department. It was extremely comfortable and you couldn’t see it from anywhere without intentionally heading in that area. The only time it was ever an issue was quite late in my pregnancy when I slept though the alarm I had on and my boss had to come find me.
    As the father of 5 children and 12 grand kids he knew all about napping mommas-to-be and was actually the one to show me the place.
    As I walked to my car at lunch there were about 12 people napping in their cars and one lady actually has an outdoor lounge chair in the back of her SUV she pulls out and rests in most days.

  37. Emi.*

    Who wants to sign my change dot org petition to develop a US siesta culture? Please and thank you.

  38. gecko*

    I think it’s a bad idea to close your eyes and chill like that at work, unfortunately. Would it be possible to substitute a meditative activity that allows you to relax? Coloring is fairly popular, especially abstract designs, or doodling fractal mandalas, or writing lists of small things like how many leaves you can think of.

    No sleeping even on break is, I think, largely a matter of convention, but it’s a really strong convention. Sleeping in your car when you’re on break is maybe a shade more permissible but I still would not do it–or maybe I’d drive off somewhere else and THEN nap in my car. But definitely not in the work building; replace that with something else that works ok for you.

  39. Lemon Sherbet*

    When I worked retail, I 100% would sometimes nap with my head on my arms on the breakroom table. No one seemed to care and I was not the only one who did it, especially during December!

  40. Emrin*

    Why supposed adults feel the need to tattle about things that could not possibly concern or affect them, never ceases to puzzle me.

  41. Anon This Time*

    In my current job, I have been known to duck out to my car for a catnap. It’s in a fenced parking lot, so not likely to be visible to passersby. My back windows are tinted pretty dark, so I don’t usually get disturbed and can get up to 20 minutes huddled up in the backseat.

    An old job was working night audit at a small hotel, solo for most of the night. If we filled up, I would sometimes post a “sorry, we’re full” sign, lock the lobby and grab half an hour or so on the VERY comfy sofa that couldn’t be seen from the front door. Totally against boss’s orders but I was working 10-12 hour shifts while taking college courses and I had to grab sleep when and where I could.

  42. Audrey Puffins*

    I nap every lunchtime on a comfy chaor in the break room. I used to take half hour lunches but then they took away flextime and I found myself with a mandated 60 minute lunch break and no idea what to do with it all, so I started napping, and discovered it actually boosted my afternoon productivity quite significantly. I wouldn’t do it if I was new to a job, but I was a few years in and fully ailu fait with the office culture at this point. Sleeping on the job is gross misconduct and a dismissable offence, but sleeping off the job really isn’t a problem.

  43. Aitch Arr*

    I was on a contract HR BP role when this issue came up with one of the employees. My advice to the employee’s manager was to tell the employee that he can nap during lunch, but please do it in his car. It was odd to see a colleague sleeping (and sometimes snoring!) in cubeland.

    I got a talking to from my boss (HR Mgr) about it. Apparently I should have let the guy snooze. *roll eyes*

    1. Quill*

      Cars aren’t a reasonable location for a lot of the year in most areas of the country though, due to heat or cold. (I’m from wisconsin. You get about 2 months out of every year where you’re near-guaranteed a habitable environment in a parked car: October and April.

  44. Bea*

    I know too many shift workers to think napping is bad optics. My mom works in healthcare, CNAs dozing during breaks is not unusual. Especially those days you’re on a double header.

    Now if you’re at your desk. Sure not ideal. But I’ve never had a boss that cared what I did on my breaks.

    I think they’re sticklers for the no sleep rules due to “this could be abused!” mentality. I operate on “could be? Has anyone abused it? No? Then not a reasonable rule for adults.”

  45. Miss V*

    Would it be possible to put a pair of headphones in while you’re on your break? If I see someone with headphones in and their eyes closed I’ll assume they’re listening to an audiobook/podcast/whatever and concentrating, not napping. People don’t have to know you aren’t really listening to something.

  46. There All Is Aching*

    I’m an outlier: For the two biggest jobs I’ve had, I was able to sleep at the office. At the first job (which had a very lax office culture), I’d zzzz under my cubicle desk or on one of the couches in the game room/conference room which had a basketball hoop and foosball table; at the second job, I had a small office with a small couch and a door I could close at my discretion. They were both journalism jobs where people tended to work into the wee hours or round-the-clock, and I’d be awake during “normal” business hours. Of course if I were to return to either gig now, I would never work that way anymore — the sleeping-at-work was definitely a matter of youth and total work-life imbalance. I didn’t know how not to default to sleeping over at work for big projects because I would work way too hard and too long, and it was safer to stay at the office than take the subway at 3am. (I’m self-employed and work at home by choice now, so yay to sleeping whenever.)

    1. There All Is Aching*

      Forgot to say, the zzzz-ing at the first job was when no one else was in the office. I’d make sure to get up before the earliest employee got in.

  47. Quickbeam*

    This is a huge point of contention in my profession (nursing). I was a night charge RN for over 20 years. I encountered a lot of people who wanted to nap on their lunch and breaks. The problem was when/if they woke up they were pretty much useless in the fast paced work of medical surgical nursing. I also found people (RNs) snoring in empty beds, their patient IVs alarming…..

    I feel that as an adult your responsibility is to get enough rest to remain alert during your shift. If there is an alternative that is private (a conference room, lounge, medication room) go for it but be ready to work afterwards. I think taking a nap in the cafeteria sends a bad message. You may not think you are sleeping but it may look like you are. I know other people who are really committed to the nap at work thing to nap in their car. I think the visibility of it really matters.

    1. JM60*

      “I feel that as an adult your responsibility is to get enough rest to remain alert during your shift.”

      How do you know if someone’s sleep deprived state is due to them not trying to get enough rest? I think it’s a bit presumptuous to assume that how rested someone is or isn’t is completely in their control. Most people will at least occasionally have a hard time getting quality sleep, and many people have sleeping disorders.

      Have you never been unable to fall asleep for an entire night (in spite of trying to sleep)? It’s not fun.

      1. Quarly*

        Yeah, it’s very disturbing that this is coming from a nurse! Many people suffer from insomnia, it doesn’t mean that they’re not responsible adults, WTF!!

        1. Fish Microwaver*

          Indeed. As a long time night shift worker I found so many issues with trying to sleep in the day – road works, construction, etc. I lived near a school and heard every bell and recess. I had an apartment near the complex pool and was woken by people using it in the afternoon. It wasn’t that I wasn’t trying to be suitably rested, it was freaking noisy.

      2. Quickbeam*

        Do you want that person as the nurse who takes care of you? *A nurse has a responsibility to show up ready for work*. A full shift. If they have health issues that’s on them to take care of. Many of the issues I faced were not people who had sleep or health disorders but people who thought they could burn the candle at both ends and coast through a night shift as a nurse.

        1. JM60*

          Nothing in this reply answers my question asking about how do you know that their sleep deprevation.

          >If they have health issues that’s on them to take care of.

          Are you saying that you’d discriminate against someone for having a health issue in spite of their best efforts to get it under control?

          Fun fact: The FAA allows airline pilots to sleep in the cockpit while on duty (within some limits). I believe it’s called “controlled rest”, and a commercial pilot by the name Mentour on YouTube did a video about it. I’m not suggesting that that is the best solution for the medical profession. However, I am a bit astonished that you seem to just assume that sleep is something that everyone can fix, as if everyone with good habits will never have sleeping problems. It comes across as extremely judgemental and presumptuous.

        2. JM60*

          Nothing in this reply answers my question about how do you know the reason behind their lack of sleep.

          >If they have health issues that’s on them to take care of.

          What if it’s not possible for them to completely take care of it volitionally? Are you saying you’d then discriminate against them for having a medical condition outside of their control?

          As for your fearful question about how I would feel with a sleep deprived nurse, you could ask the same thing about airline pilots. Yet, the FAA allows on-duty airline pilots to sleep in the cockpit (with some regulations). I’m not saying that that’s the approach that should be taken with nursing. But if the FAA recognizes that there are ways to accommodate involuntarily sleeping problems, then there may be ways to safely accommodate sleeping problems in other life-critical professions as well.

          My major concern with your comment is that you seem to treat insomnia as if it’s always fixable with good habit, when in reality it’s often involuntary. That assumption makes you come across as very presumptuous and judgemental.

    2. Fiennes*

      Different jobs are going to have different needs. If you need to be ready for something as delicate/important as assisting in surgery at any moment, then yeah, maybe a nap isn’t a great idea. But for the average office worker, a couple of minutes’ wind down and wake up might be well worth the trade off in greater attention & productivity the rest of the day.

      It’s also incumbent on the napper to know how it affects them. I’m someone who takes forever to get to sleep (regardless of tiredness level) and who is groggy for a significant time afterwards. So I don’t nap if I’ve got anything much in the next couple hours. In fact, that’s the only reason I’m not napping now, bc OMG SO TIRED. My partner, however, can fall asleep within 90 seconds regardless of noise or light in the room, and emerge substantially refreshed in minutes, instantly alert again. People in the latter category, go on & nap.

  48. JM60*

    I think it’s very stupid how people in western culture tend to assume that you’re slacking off when they see you resting in an area specificly set aside for NOT working (a break room). If you’re in a break room, the default assumption should be that you are currently off duty.

    I’ve heard that this is almost the opposite in Japan. I’ve heard that sleeping at your workstation over there is often seen as a sign that you’ve been working so hard that you’ve tired yourself out.

    1. Specialk9*

      Yeah but that’s not about napping, it’s about expecting people to be at work virtually 24/7. Not something to emulate.

  49. Canadian J*

    I agree that you should be able to use your break times as you wish, but unfortunately the optics of this have to be considered.

    I had a similar situation with my intern a few years ago. This person would take their breaks at their desk, and nap in their chair with their feet propped up. I had to explain that, to people walking by, it looked like we hadn’t given enough work, or it looked like we weren’t supervising properly, or it looked like a “typical government employee, wasting taxpayer dollars” (none of these were correct, but it LOOKED like that). Also, in this case, our senior staff were located on the same floor and regularly walked by our desks.

    We asked the intern to take their nap-breaks at a different location, like an empty floor or a common area (where other people napped, too), and it ended up working out. We had no issues with napping on breaks, but in our office it just couldn’t be done at the desk, in view of coworkers/colleagues.

  50. ScotKat*

    It’s such a shame that ‘optics’ is what seems to matter more than health. Napping is often vital to ensuring people aren’t too tired to work safely and maybe even get home in one piece. If you’re away from anyplace customers can see you, I don’t see the issue. Especially as you aren’t even sleeping anyway!

    Napping is totally normal and having read a lot about sleep recently is probably something we should be moving to do more of rather than expecting people to keep going regardless. If I could nap for 20 mins at about 2pm at work, I’d be SO much more productive the rest of the day. I once had to go out to my car after lunch for 10 mins to close my eyes because I really was so sleepy; I just tend to slump mid-afternoon and it takes a lot to heave myself back into work mode. And I get OK sleep during the night… I can’t really help it.

    I think we’re still programmed to see ‘sleep’ as ‘laziness’, and it means many of us aren’t getting enough of it. Naturally this is totally different if someone is openly sleeping at their desk during work hours or in full sight of clients or something! But on your break away from all that… I don’t see a problem.

    1. DaniCalifornia*

      If I could work my own schedule I wouldn’t wake up until after 9am, work until 2 and then nap and then work 4-7.

    2. Technical_Kitty*

      Heh, there are days where I literally can’t stay awake around 2-3pm. If I give in and have 10min nap at my desk I’m fine but if I fight it I’m useless until 4 or so. I’m tucked away in a pretty private corner so it’s very unlikely people see me when I have a quick nap though. Would be a lot harder if I sat in the open plan area.

    3. Fish Microwaver*

      Yep, fellow mid afternoon slumper here. However, a 20-30 minute nap revives me and makes me more productive.

  51. DaniCalifornia*

    (This is going to sound weird but) we nap in our jail cells during busy season. Clients are never up there unless they get a tour of our historic building and we know the schedule. They’re comfy. No one complains. I used to nap in the unused office when I was in a medical office. I was trying to reset my sleep schedule and it was great getting in a 45 min nap mid day. The afternoon was so much easier to handle.

    1. Myrin*

      I’m from a carpentry family and my great-great grandpa and his son (my grandpa’s uncle) owned a funeral home where my grandpa also worked as a young man. It was apparently very common for grandpa’s uncle, who was known to be eccentric and hyper (he did press-ups every day so as to stay fit and outlive one of his relatives whose house he’d have inherited), to spend his lunch break napping in one of the unfinished coffins. According to my grandpa, there’s nothing morbid about these things if you’re literally the one who creates them.

  52. M55*

    Up until a year ago I fell asleep around 3 pm every afternoon, whether standing or sitting. The root issue: a medicine for Restless Leg syndrome (RLS) has this as one of the bad side effects. I finally went to my doctor to change meds after falling asleep while eating at a party. Good news: new med works even better than old one with almost no side effects.

  53. Allison*

    I used to work as an overnight security proctor in the dorms at school, and when I was new, I would take a quick nap during my breaks, with an alarm on my phone so I’d wake up on time. Sometimes I’d do it in the lounge area, sometimes I’d actually go back to my own resident hall to sleep for a bit. Then, they started telling us we couldn’t do that, and I once got in trouble for accidentally falling asleep on break while reading a book! I didn’t question it, but I figured they’d had a problem with proctors not waking up in time to return to their shift, or being too sleepy when they did return, or it created an optics issue, maybe all three! For this reason (and possibly others) we weren’t allowed to work in the buildings where we lived, or put our feet up on the proctor desk. So I started taking walks instead of napping, which was actually more effective in re-energizing me!

    It does suck, but as a general guideline, don’t nap at work, unless they give you special facilities like nap pods or a room with beds that you’re allowed to use. There are valid reasons for it, like optics, and the concern that you might not wake up in time or may get to work sleepier than you’d be if you’d spent that time walking around or drinking coffee.

  54. Bigglesworth*

    Not an office environment, but my spouse works in construction and sleeps during his breaks all the time. He’s usually in his car at the time, but he has been known to find a quiet nook and fall asleep there. He still gets glowing reviews and people haven’t seemed to judge him at all. This might just be a workplace difference (blue vs. white collar work), but there is a definite benefit to power naps throughout the day.

  55. Urdnot Bakara*

    During college, I worked in data entry for an insurance company, and aside from lunch I had two mandatory, 15-minute, on-the-clock breaks. I was not client-facing and I sat in a cubicle hidden by other cubicles in the literal way back of the office, so I set a (vibrating) alarm and napped at my desk during those times every day. My manager was aware and it was never an issue, but I also had the ideal job to make napping excusable (staring at a computer all day, unseen by anyone). It helped me stay awake at a really boring job during the times I needed to be extremely focused. I think I did put a sticky note on my computer monitor indicating I was on break, though.

  56. Alienor*

    I wouldn’t personally nap at work because I’d feel too vulnerable – I don’t want my colleagues to be able to touch me or play “hilarious” pranks on me or take photos of me with my mouth hanging open (or just generally observe me in some unflattering pose). But, if other people want to close their eyes on their break time, that’s up to them, and I’d be very annoyed with someone who came to tattle to me about it. More people need to mind their own dang business, not just at work, but everyplace.

  57. Technical_Kitty*

    This is interesting. I work in mining, and with travel during work, or going to and from work, driving especially, there is a lot of concern around fatigue management. So if you need a little power nap it is encouraged (if people are abusing it they get put in place pretty quick). Maybe snow your boss with some “Fatigue Management” stuff? It might not directly apply but boss doesn’t know that haha.

  58. Hankypanky*

    I believe in lunch resting /napping. As long as you are off the clock then people need to relax. That being said, when I partake in a lunch nap I do so NOT at my desk or in the lunchroom. Either find an unused office or preferably a naproom (if you are so lucky) and set a timer. Out of sight, our of mind. If someone asks, you can tell them you work better with a few mins of quiet. If your workplace tries to dictate your off the clock, in private activities it’s time to find another place to work.

  59. NW Mossy*

    There’s an employee in my department who’s spoken of in tones that hit this interesting mark of “totally Judging It but also secretly admiring” due to her ability to catnap on break. She can literally lay her head down, nod off in moments, and pop up almost exactly 15 minutes later to resume work. Since the quality of her work is very high, we sometimes wonder if this sort of precise sleep control is part of her secret sauce.

  60. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    This is what I used to do in school. Large text book open in front you, highlighter in one hand, head bent with the other hand shading your eyes. Since you are not asleep it’s easy to glance up if anyone approaches. If someone complains that you seem to be studying too much, then your office has real issues.

    1. chi type*

      This is what I was going to say. Open a book or newspaper on the table and prop your forehead on the hand closest to the outside of the booth.

  61. Johan*

    Yeah, I’ve worked places — office work — where it has been explicitly stated in the employee handbook that sleeping at work (anywhere) is grounds for immediate firing. At service jobs (call centers) I’ve worked at, employees often did snooze in their cars. But one nodded off during a staffwide meeting and was fired on the spot.

  62. I used to be Chuck Finley*

    Here’s how bad it can be working as a public school teacher – some people driving by our school actually complained because a couple teachers sat outside on folding camp style chairs (upright, not lounge chairs) during their (by contract duty free) lunch breaks – it was rare beautiful spring weather here in Wisconsin and the teachers wanted to eat their sandwiches outside. The superintendent actually then banned teachers from sitting outside the schools and eating.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That kind of reaction just sucks. I hate it when people are so hell bent on pleasing the customer that any kind of negative communication provokes that kind of reaction.

    2. Bea*

      That’s horrid. The job already pays like crap and the “customers” are any one with a kid. And people have the nerve to complain about the cruddy education we get. You get what you pay for.

      I’m saddened by the large quantity of former teachers who apply to any number of jobs I’ve had to post. From general customer service to machine operators and such. They went to school to educate children and for some reason (I can think of about a dozen off the top of my head) they’d rather answer phones instead of stay in education. Sigh. Let them enjoy the sun W.T.F.

      1. Quill*

        A dozen sounds about right… standardized testing, bad pay, states actively trying to take away their ability to negotiate, the fact that some people are just undoubtedly bad parents, and some people are more WTF parents… (A recent contender for that title dressed her seven year old daughter up for halloween as a playboy bunny. Not a bunny in general. Playboy branding. Costume made it past dress code… barely.)

    3. Quill*

      My mom teaches, and the primary reason they wouldn’t eat outside is because there’s no outdoor space at her school that wouldn’t be flooded with students at the time.

      Elementary schoolers don’t care if you’re off duty.

      (That said I can see this being the sort of weird rabbit hole that her principal would go down about school image…)

  63. Ciela*

    I would think nap in the break room should be fine. We’ve had our receptionist take a nap, at her desk, in the showroom. You know, the room that customers walk into when the enter the building.
    Funny thing, she was almost as productive while napping as when she is working.

  64. Leslie knope*

    I’m just jealous that anyone can nap for short periods of time and feel refreshed. I always seem to feel worse.

    1. Quake Johnson*

      SAME! I have never woken up feeling “refreshed,” be it a nap or a regular sleeping period. I actually can’t imagine what being refreshed would actually feel like.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I am a terrible sleeper (I’m trying out some meditation therapy to fix it right now) but I am a GREAT napper. 20 minutes max. It’s pretty light sleep, but it’s enough to recharge me and take the edge off the tiredness. The times I’ve taken 2-hour naps, I’ve felt miserable too. It all just boils down to everyone having different sleep patterns.

    3. Alienor*

      Same – it doesn’t matter if I nap for 10 minutes or an hour, I wake up all groggy and disoriented and feeling terrible.

    4. ragazza*

      I’ve read that a nap should either be 15-20 minutes or 2 hours. Anything in-between, you’re going to be in the midst of the REM cycle and will feel groggy.

  65. Quake Johnson*

    I gotta say, this comment section is really jarring to me. I can’t imagine ever wanting to sleep at work. Or anywhere in public. Or anywhere that isn’t a bedroom, really.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      What about… planes? Or trains? (Maybe automobiles, but only as a passenger.) There are a lot of situations where people nap in public. And you’ve never fallen asleep on a sofa, even for a cat nap?

        1. Quake Johnson*

          That’s even weirder than sleeping at work to me. 1) You see the skeeviest people on the city trains, why would you let yourself be unconscious around them? 2) The busses and trains tend to be LOUD. How can a person sleep through such noise?

      1. Quake Johnson*

        I get other people do it but no, I can never sleep on a plane or in a bud. How can you sleep when you’re in motion?

        And if I’m getting tired on the sofa I realize it’s time for bed and go to my room. I’d never be able to fall asleep on it.

        I understand I’m the one who’s the oddity though.

    2. chi type*

      I mean I can’t nap for s#!t either but I envy those who can totally recharge after 15 minutes and can’t imagine begrudging them doing it when they’re not even on the clock.

  66. AnonInfinity*

    I’m conflicted about this. A big part of me says you’re doing it on your time (either before clocking in or while on break), but another part of me says that you’re doing this in a public space at work – not great optics, not great for your coworkers who want to use the space for their breaks. I don’t think I’d get away with being seen sitting with my eyes closed through the window my of closed-door office, let alone in a common space. People would talk, and it would get back to management.

    The former manager in me also says that even if you’re on your own time, you’re still in the company building (e.g., if you work in retail, you don’t get to be rude to customers just because you showed up early and haven’t clocked in yet), and so what you do in the break room is still up to the company, whether you’re getting paid during that time or not. Sleeping or being perceived to sleep at work is pretty taboo, and I’m not surprised management asked you to stop. For all the stories I hear at work about former employees I never knew, quite a few of them seem to include “and Person X NAPPED IN HIS OFFICE! Can you believe it?” People get weird about that.

    (I also sat in on a guy being fired for taking a nap during his 15 minute break but not waking up for 5 hours. He slept through his entire shift.)

  67. KR*

    The thing that’s crazy to me about this letter is that OP was not sleeping. They were just sitting upright with their eyes closed. I think that they could go back to their manager and say I wanted to speak to you about the conversation we had the other day. I know it might have looked like I was sleeping but I really just like to close my eyes and relax before my shift. I was sitting upright and I was fully awake with coffee in front of me. I can assure you I won’t sleep in the break room but if you see me with my eyes closed I’m just resting my eyes.

  68. Delphine*

    The person who thought this was something that they needed to talk to LW’s boss about needs a reality check. We have a large restaurant-size dining area/cafe in my workplace. I can’t imagine seeing a coworker sitting at a booth with her eyes closed before work or during lunch and thinking anything other than, “Oh, coworker is having a nap.” What would compel anyone to expend energy on tattling about that?

  69. Victoria, Please*

    Chuckle. I had a class during my PhD program that was from 2-3:15. I could NOT stay awake, for nothin’! I would have diet coke, I would pinch myself, I’d take copious notes, I’d even try to nap beforehand… I dozed off every single class. Got the highest grade so clearly it wasn’t a performance problem.

    Currently, five of my team members have what amount to sofas in their offices, i.e. long, low filing cabinets that they have put cushions on, and I DO NOT! and I am envious. Considering the truckloads of work they put out, they can catch a snooze if they want! And if one of the (hourly) people without a “sofa” wanted a nap, I’d say “There’s the empty cubicle, just close the door and set a phone alarm so you wake up in time, okay?”

    I will say I hadn’t thought of the problems with some other venues, like nursing. If naps make you LESS able to do your work then, well, no nap. Sorry.

  70. Former Retail Manager*

    If I were OP, I’d go with the suggestion of many other commenters and let them know you’re not napping, but taking a quick rest and use some of the great verbiage suggested.

    We have an employee in our office who legit really does sleep at his desk. He is typically upright, but we know he’s not resting his eyes, because he’s snoring like a freight train for no less than 15 mins at a time. We all kinda laugh about it. Quite frankly, the man is like 75 and can retire anytime, but refuses to. I’m sure he needs a nap. However, no one has said anything to his manager, although someone probably should. OP’s situation doesn’t sound like a run and tell the mgr situation….ugh…some people.

    1. Alienor*

      We used to have a much older man who would sleep at his desk also. He got let go eventually, but it was for performance-related issues, not for sleeping. Although I’m sure his reputation as the snoring guy didn’t help him any.

  71. MissDisplaced*

    Personally, I think this is stupid to reprimand you for this when you were sitting in the break room before your start time. If it were at your desk… yeah, well I can see the bad optics on that, but it wasn’t.
    Unfortunately, at this point I don’t think you can pushback much because someone actually made a comment to your boss and the optics are bad for them if you continue to do so.

    1. LGC*

      I just thought about something – LW doesn’t mention having a desk.

      For whatever reason, the boss’s micromanagement (“You can’t do this on your break!” – where the activity has no impact on the employee’s ability to work) plus the description of the workplace (and specifically that the break room isn’t customer facing) strikes me as LW working retail or another service oriented job. In which case: the boss is still crazy but it’s also kind of par for the course.

  72. LGC*

    Add me to the list of people who think your boss is being stupid. By definition, you’re not supposed to be working (or even on the clock, from the way you describe it). I guess his main concern is that you might oversleep and come back from break late? But even so, I think the best solution is to trust you to be an adult and actually get yourself back to work on time.

    (Random anecdote: when I used to work in an office with cubicles, I napped behind and under my cube ALL THE TIME. Until I found out about a rodent infestation. And their preferred entry spot. Which was right by my cube (I had a sweet full cubicle and a window spot).

    I stopped napping there after that.)

      1. LGC*

        That office…had issues. (Not just from the building. To this day, when I say “the b-word,” it means “bed bugs.”)

    1. Quill*

      I have rehabbed wild rodents before and even I find that both disgusting and mildly terrifying. (I adore pet rats and am under NO illusions that the wild ones are anywhere near as cuddly…)

  73. The Other CC*

    One of my (maybe illegal?) internships was at a small company where a TON of work fell on the interns – like, it was a 1:1 ratio of staff:interns. So we were always staying late to do the grunt work – laundry after shows, hanging lights, locking up after dress rehearsal, that kind of thing. Then we’d come in the next morning to do our work for the next show. Obviously working 9 am – 2 am some weeks really took it out of most of us, so people would occasionally catch a quick nap in the break room or a couch on the quiet, secluded third floor on meal breaks.

    Since we were all making less than $100/week before taxes, no one bothered us too much about it…except one of the office staff who worked a normal 9 – 5 and always complained about how bad it looked* to have a bunch of recent college grads sleeping around the building during regular business hours. I *wanted* to tell her that if she were better at her (fundraising) job, maybe the company could hire more staff and stop relying so heavily on cheap sleep-deprived intern labor…but I bit my tongue.

    * I realize that people don’t like having to tiptoe around a coworker who is inconsiderately taking up limited space at work to take a nap. And obviously it’s very unprofessional to be passed out anywhere customers or vendors can see you. But being scolded for sitting upright with your eyes closed, in a large lunchroom (or even at your desk)? Policing your coworkers’ nap/rest habits, when there’s no impact on the quality of their work or the reputation of the company? C’mon.

  74. PersonalJeebus*

    Ugh. Alison, I know you’re not wrong about the perception side of this and how far the OP is likely to get if she pushes back, but we SHOULD all be heavily invested in getting enough sleep/rest! It’s hard to overstate how important sleep is to our overall health and productivity.

    I think the OP could be a *bit* firmer in her response to her boss, saying something like, “I hope it’s clear that I’m committed to being available and ‘on’ during my scheduled work hours, since the reason I’m even in the break room at that time of day is that I get up extra early in the mornings and leave with plenty of time to start work on schedule. And I want to reiterate that I’m not even actually sleeping at these times, I’m just resting quietly. These periods of rest help me give my best performance when I’m on the clock. I’m hoping you’ll reconsider letting me do this, because it’s important to me.”

    I can’t imagine sacrificing up to 30 minutes of sleep every morning, 100% voluntarily and consistently, in order to arrive early as the OP does. So I think she should get the benefit of the doubt from her boss, and unfortunately it’s up to her to make the case for that.

  75. Quill*

    I’ve fallen asleep at school or work before… (Overhead projectors make me sleepy, doesn’t matter how much sleep I’ve gotten, I’m out like a bird with a sheet thrown over it’s cage.) I got talked to once by a manager about it and didn’t know what to say, especially as she gave me a talking to about staying home if I was coming down with something, but I was contract and most of my work is a pain in the ass to reschedule due to it being lab work. (Plus, you can’t call out sick for something you don’t know is going to happen…)

    I’ve also had jobs where it was perfectly normal to nap during downtime on extended shifts for experiments – actually the only place I had that wanted us to be available to stay in late to supervise an experiment and cared what we did at 9 pm between changing out teapot samples was a terrible workplace in pretty much every regard.

    … that’s also the workplace that drove me to meditating in the building’s shared bathroom just so that nobody would talk to me. Good luck and good rest, OP.

  76. Princess Aurora for this one*

    Meh, I used to go in an empty conference room or office, turn the lights off and go to sleep on the floor or across two chairs during my lunch break. People walked in before, (also looking for a private space to escape, not because I was using a room that was needed for business purposes) and apologized for disturbing me. I never got in trouble for it and if someone said anything, I definitely wouldn’t back down. You want me to be a safe and productive employee, then on MY time I will do what I need to do to be that. Sometimes sleeping was necessary for me. I never overslept, I was never seen by clients or customers, and I never used an area that was reserved or needed. I wouldn’t do it in communal areas, mostly for me though but I likely could’ve in the break room if I needed to. I’m pretty sure I remember other people doing it. Otherwise car nap breaks are wonderful too. But nobody cared. If I return to the workforce, I would hope I could use my time how I saw fit there too.

    Whoever tattled on LW was a busybody.

  77. square eyes*

    One day I was walking down the hall and noticed a space heater on full blast in a cubicle, but the occupant was not in sight. I went in to turn it off and realized the person WAS there – asleep under her desk. I thought that was nutzo. Here I am 15 years later and would like nothing better than to do the same thing.

  78. mynameisnotjane*

    One of the best jobs I ever had was at a small furniture store. I was the back office person and there were 2 other ladies who did customer service/sales. On slow days (and there were a lot of those), we’d each claim a sofa after lunch and nap until a customer came in. We had a particular corner in the back that was perfect – it was hidden from the front door, which would chime when someone came in and we’d have enough time to jump up before they made it to the back of the store. It was pretty awesome!

  79. Ale*

    I were the boss on such a a place… I would not only allow people to sleep in their breaks, I would encourage!
    Power naps are really good, it give you rest and you wake up much more refreshed and energetic. Simply set your phone alarm to vibrate after 15-20 minutes, and off you go!

  80. Mockingdragon*

    The day I realized I don’t ever want to go back to working in an office was the day I sat down to my freelance work (proofreading) and absolutely could not stay awake an hour later. The kind of tired that hurt the eyes and made me queasy. And all I had to do was turn off the monitor, go to my room, and sleep a little more. And no one was there to judge me, and the work all got done by the end of the day, and I didn’t have to fight my way miserably through extreme discomfort doing subpar work.

    I know that not all offices are as rigid and horrible as my old one, but I doubt even on salary it would be easy to find a place where I could have just slept.

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