The Only Black Guy in the Office

Sleeping on the Job Is the Best Thing About WFH

As offices reopen, saying goodbye to the mid-workday nap might be the hardest

Illustration: Michael Kennedy

I knew this day would eventually arrive. I just hadn’t realized how much I’d dread it.

With vaccinations steadily rolling out around the United States, my company is beginning to introduce a plan for employees to return to the office. And while the early days of the pandemic found me longing for more IRL human interaction, I’m already feeling wistful for the days of working from home. I’ve got a zenned-out morning routine, no hectic commute, cost-effective and tasty lunches courtesy of my own kitchen, and, perhaps most importantly, a semi-weekly workday tradition: the midday nap.

About a month into WFH life, I inadvertently discovered the power of a good nap. On an easygoing Wednesday, with an afternoon devoid of Zoom calls that could’ve been emails, the caffeine crash hit like an avalanche of drowsy (or a large bite of the wrong kind of brownie). It didn’t take much: I simply spread out on my couch and powered down for a quick 20. I awoke charged up like Drake, with a second wind that allowed me to power through the rest of the day and even get a jump start on the following day’s to-do list. It’s been a lifestyle ever since.

At this point, nap time is the most precious portion of my day. Of course, I don’t label it as such in my work calendar — I can’t have my co-workers think I’m sleeping on the job. But I’ve made it a point to schedule a half-hour chunk marked “Busy” at 2 p.m., at least every other day, so no one dares to disrupt this essential, deeply personal time.

Twenty to 30 minutes of shut-eye has not only made me more productive and alert, it’s also made me less moody during that late afternoon stretch of meetings when most folks are ready to yabba dabba doo their asses out of work like a digital-era Fred Flintstone.

A funny thing happened since I started prioritizing rest during company time: I began to notice other co-workers had similar blocked-off chunks of time during which they were unavailable for unspecified reasons. These calendar entries would don the letter DNS — corporate speak for “Do Not Schedule” — and while there’s no way to be completely sure, I have a strong hunch that this pandemic trend meant all of us were taking naps while on the clock.

To keep it real, it should’ve always been this way. Midday naps are the most liberating perks of working in a space with a comfy-ass sofa and a damn bed. Sure, you have to pick your spots; you don’t want to oversleep and wake up halfway through an all-hands meeting where you’re slated to present. But 20–30 minutes of shut-eye has not only made me more productive and alert, it’s also made me less moody during that late afternoon stretch of meetings when most folks are ready to yabba dabba doo their asses out of work apps like a digital-era Fred Flintstone.

It’s bigger than occasionally leaving drool on your pillow, though. Sometimes, nap time is simply about resting on a soft surface, perhaps watching some sports highlights on my phone. Or flipping through a few pages of my latest paperback read. Or meditating. For the Peloton gang among us, maybe it’s a quick ride to get some endorphins going. Whatever your workday me time of choice, it must not be work. At all.

Returning to the office threatens to strip us of these small leisures that make a huge difference on job satisfaction and performance. I know a select few companies — problematic-ass Google, included — have had nap pods available for employees since long before the Covid shutdown. I hope more employers like mine will stay woke and encourage employees to cash in on some brief but meaningful rest during the day.

If you haven’t taken a midday nap throughout the WFH era, you’ve been doing it wrong. These weekends go by too damn fast, and getting a full night of sleep is harder than that half-completed 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle you started back in July. I urge you: Take as many naps as you can now. Because before you know it, you’ll be back in your cubicle, tired as hell, and the only thing DNS will stand for is “Do Not Sleep.”

Do you know him? Is it you? The trials and tribulations of a Black man navigating corporate life.

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