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Workplace naps could be the new job perk in the Middle East

Experts say a short doze can leave employees feeling refreshed and more productive

Workplace naps could be the new job perk in the Middle East
[Source photo: Krishna Prasad/Fast Company Middle East]

When that afternoon slump hits at the office, often, all you can do is fight the urge to snooze and take a coffee break instead. Taking a nap would be unthinkable.

However, in many companies worldwide, including Google, Meta, Accenture, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, and Nike, employees use nap pods or quiet rooms to overcome the midday slump.

“Workplace napping is gaining widespread popularity within employee wellness initiatives across organizations, manifesting as designated nap rooms or longer lunch breaks,” says Neeta Jhaveri, functional medicine practitioner at Wellth, a holistic medical center in Dubai.

The idea of workplace napping has not yet transitioned to the Middle East’s corporate culture. However, relaxation areas or wellness rooms are gaining traction within many progressive companies in the UAE. 

Among them are Dubai-based conglomerate Juma Al Majid Holding Group, state-owned bank Emirates NBD, and Novartis Middle East, the regional hub of the Swiss multinational pharmaceutical corporation.

“We have a wellness room in our Middle East office to offer colleagues a support mechanism if they feel unwell—for example, if they’re suffering from migraines or back problems—and need to take a break from their desk. It’s a quiet room, away from the main office area, with a bed, plants, and natural light,” says Punitha Aranha, communications director at Novartis.

“It also promotes a positive work culture that values employees as individuals,” she adds.


Plenty of research backs up the benefits of a midday siesta. One study found that afternoon naps improve cognitive performance and alertness for two hours.

Another study found that after three weeks of daily 30-minute naps, employees were 2.3% more productive and improved their patience and attention at work. 

“It’s important to recognize the growing body of research supporting the benefits of power naps for cognitive function, mood regulation, and overall productivity. By providing opportunities for employees to nap during the workday, we know that companies can create a more energized and productive workforce,” says Julie Mallon, a UAE-based sleep expert and founder of consultancy Nurture 2 Sleep.

Naps also make good business sense as they can decrease absenteeism, healthcare expenditures, and workplace accidents. 

Moreover, a nap-friendly workplace can help recruit and retain top talent. “Offering naptime as part of workplace wellness initiatives can make the company more attractive to current and prospective employees. It can serve as a unique perk that sets the company apart from competitors and contributes to employee satisfaction and retention,” says Jhaveri.


Despite the benefits of workplace naps, there are potential downsides, such as the possibility of sleep inertia following naps of 30 minutes or more. This brief period of diminished awareness can make people more susceptible to accidents. 

The US-based Sleep Foundation recommends napping for 20 to 30 minutes to get the best results and wake up feeling refreshed.

Furthermore, while naps can temporarily relieve fatigue, employees may become dependent on them to compensate for poor sleep habits or excessive workload.

Claudine Gillard, a sleep consultant for Dubai-based bedding brand RocketLinen.com, believes regular napping at work reflects the lack of overnight sleep and could interfere with employees’ work-life balance. 

“The advent of workplace napping could pressure employees to work longer hours at the expense of time traditionally spent with family and on personal activities. This could negatively impact their well-being,” says Gillard.

“If it is necessary and occasional, then, of course, the ability to nap at work is better than burnout from exhaustion.”


Sleep deprivation is highly prevalent in the Middle East. More than 40% of UAE residents sleep less than six hours per night, primarily due to stress, according to a poll.

In Lebanon, 44.5% of 501 study participants said they had insomnia, while in Qatar, 54% of 2,500 respondents said they slept less than seven hours, the minimum sleep duration recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. 

Similarly, in a study of 1,449 adults in Saudi Arabia, 70% reported feeling sleep-deprived at least some time, regardless of their sleep duration.

According to Jhaveri, certain jobs that involve long or irregular work hours and night shifts could especially affect the quality of sleep. 

“The usual working scenario requires people to sit at their workstations, frequently in front of computers, for extended periods. Tight deadlines, employment unpredictability, and social-political challenges in the workplace all contribute to stress accumulating.”


While power naps have been widely recognized for their potential to enhance productivity and well-being in Western societies, their adoption in the Middle East faces cultural, social, and organizational barriers.

“The prevailing work culture in the Middle East prioritizes long hours and continuous work without breaks, but also part of creating this ‘can-do’ attitude. This culture of overwork may lead to stigma surrounding rest periods during the workday, including power naps,” says Mallon.

Cultural norms and perceptions surrounding sleep and productivity can also contribute to the reluctance to accept power naps. 

“In many Middle Eastern societies, there is a strong emphasis on perseverance, diligence, and endurance in the workplace. Taking a break or appearing to prioritize personal well-being over work commitments may be viewed as a sign of weakness or lack of dedication,” says Mallon.

To top it all off, organizational structures may not support the integration of power naps into the workday. According to Mallon, many companies in the region adhere to traditional work schedules and fixed hierarchies, which can leave little room for flexibility or innovation in work practices. 


Changing the perception of workplace napping across the Middle East requires a targeted approach encouraging employees to embrace this practice.

“Allowing office naps may be a significant cultural adjustment for organizations, and as with any change, it may take some time for employees to adjust to such a novel idea. Ultimately, it requires a shift in mindset and a willingness to prioritize employee well-being,” says Jhaveri.

To bring about such change, Mallon suggests combining education through workshops, role modeling where leaders endorse and practice power naps to influence employee attitudes and flexible policies such as the hybrid work model.

She advises companies to establish clear procedures for accessing nap facilities, including duration limits and etiquette guidelines, and to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of their napping policies through feedback sessions and performance metrics.

Providing dedicated nap rooms or areas equipped with recliners, dim lighting, and noise-canceling features also helps create a conducive napping environment. 

“There’s an opportunity to advocate for a shift in cultural attitudes and workplace policies regarding sleep in general and rest in the Middle East,” says Mallon. 

“By raising awareness of the scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of power naps and promoting a culture of work-life balance and well-being, we can create healthier, more productive work environments that benefit both employees and organizations in the region.”

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