During the work-from-home revolution that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, many attorneys changed the way they approach work as they dealt with the virtual environment that many lawyers and law firms operated within during the past few years. Numerous lawyers employed Zoom and other similar applications to collaborate with coworkers, and attorneys changed the pace of their work cycles due to the flexibility afforded by working from home. Many lawyers told me that while working from home, they were able to set time aside to take naps throughout the workday, and that such naps were helpful in keeping them productive and rested. Since many law firms are ordering lawyers back to the office as of late, numerous attorneys are unable to enjoy the naps that they took during workdays earlier in the pandemic. This is a shame since napping can help people be more productive, and employers should consider embracing napping more often to increase the productivity of employees.
I am a big fan of napping, and I come from a long line of nappers. My old man was big on naps, and sometimes, we would nap in our living room as a family on weekend days, usually while watching golf on TV. When I worked as a counselor at a day camp one summer in high school, I loved nap time, and I would usually doze off at the same time as the kids! Throughout college and law school, I made sure to take a nap pretty much every day, and even before the pandemic, I would take a nap most days I worked from home to recharge the batteries and make myself more able to attack my work tasks when I woke up.
I am not a sleep expert, but napping is a great way to give yourself a boost of energy and stay refreshed to better complete tasks during the day. There is a perception among some that napping is for lazy people and that people should be disciplined enough to avoid napping. It should be noted that this is a uniquely American notion, and not all cultures look down upon napping. In any event, it could just as easily be argued that napping shows discipline because a regimented lifestyle may include scheduling some time for a nap. In fact, the United States Army recently implemented a policy of “strategic and aggressive napping” presumably because military leaders understand all of the benefits that napping can have on keeping soldiers rested and ready for action.
Napping is easy enough to do while working from home, as many attorneys can attest to from firsthand experience. It is usually relatively simple for lawyers to pick a time of day to nap when they expect not to be bothered for a while from calls and emails. Even if an attorney is called or emailed while they are taking a nap, a 30-minute delay in returning calls and emails is rarely an issue. Since lawyers are assessed more on the hours they bill more than any other metric, lawyers can make up any time so that they meet a firm’s expectations around billing even if they do nap. Although everyone may need different amounts of sleep during a nap, the 30 minutes or so most people need to sleep while napping shouldn’t be too disruptive to a firm.
Of course, napping in an office is a completely different ballgame, although characters like George Costanza have tried to nap at work to hilarious effect! If I am being completely honest, I have napped in an office on a few occasions at two different law firms at the beginning of my career. Both times were when I was tired either from traveling or something I did the night before, and at both firms, I had a private office that made napping a pretty easy thing to get away with. Since people do not have comfortable setups at work to take naps, and employees may be under scrutiny from bosses who may not believe that napping is appropriate during the workday, it might be more difficult for people to get away with napping at an office.
Management might consider being more open to napping in an office. So long as attorneys meet their billable hour requirements, why should management care what attorneys do while they are in an office? Of course, sometimes lawyers need to be on call about matters, but attorneys are good at knowing when they need to be ready to accept work and can decide whether they have the liberty to take a nap at a given time.
All told, it is unfortunate that napping is not a more acceptable practice in the American workplace, since napping clearly has a number of benefits. Employees may be more productive from napping, and employers should do more to encourage napping if it helps attorneys and staff be more efficient at completing their tasks.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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