Christopher Lindholst is CEO and Co-Founder of MetroNaps, the futuristic napping pods that can be spotted all over Silicon Valley (and beyond). A pioneer in corporate fatigue management solutions since 2003—and a champion of improved sleep overall—his clients include Google, NASA, The Huffington Post, law firms, gyms, spas, colleges and universities.
Lindholst, who also serves on the board for the U.S. National Sleep Foundation, started MetroNaps after spotting employees sneaking away to nap in their cars, under their desks and in restrooms. The overriding premise and promise of his company’s EnergyPods, which sell for about $13,000 each, is that investing in sleep is a smart decision for employers and employees alike.
Happy, well-rested workers lead to a happier, more productive culture—one that’s more creative, less prone to careless errors, absenteeism, sick days or mood swings, and in general a more productive, positive workplace that external customers and stakeholders can sense, too. Hard to argue with that, right? Except many employers don’t want to sanction sleeping on the job.
“Until fairly recently, sleep wellness was missing from most wellness programs—they tended to focus on diet, weight, exercise and smoking cessation. That’s been kind of unfortunate because of the major contribution that sleep makes to health and wellness,” said Lawrence Epstein, director of the sleep medicine fellowship program at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, to the Financial Times.
“More and more, we’re seeing how sleep disorders affect work productivity, healthcare costs and workplace accidents. The cost of insomnia in the US is estimated to be over $100bn when you add in reduced productivity, absenteeism and presenteeism” when employees are unproductive at work.
We caught up with Lindholst for the latest in his field:
Christopher, how do you summarize the importance of rest at work, or as you put it, corporate fatigue management solutions?
Awareness. Awareness. Awareness. We started back in 2004 and it has taken over a decade for companies to really wake up (pun intended) to the importance of rest, sleep and fatigue in terms of the impact it has on employees and performance. Fitness had its awareness decade, nutrition also (but let’s be honest, we’re still working on both)—and this is the decade where sleep gets a seat at the table. It’s overdue.
Sleep is arguably more important in terms of the immediate impact on health and performance. We call it “sleeping on the job.” They told us we were crazy back in 2004, but it’s a good thing when done properly and the word is out.
Tell us more about the inspiration for EnergyPods and what kinds of data do you collect?
We saw people falling asleep at work, going to the bathrooms and their parked cars to get some sleep. We saw an opportunity to service that need with a workplace rest solution, and then spent several years designing the EnergyPod. The EnergyPods track how much (and how) they are used. We take that data and turn it into information for our clients for optimizing their installations in terms of where equipment is placed. We also feed it into onboard technology to tweak our systems to suit the way our EnergyPods are actually used.
What are your biggest challenges to scaling and growth?
Companies make decisions in completely different ways than individuals. There are some very large players within B2B in this area that can be gatekeepers for those decisions. We’re the leaders in our space, but still a small company compared to some of those players, so getting share of mind is always something we have to work extra hard at. We’re lucky that we have a very iconic solution that is frequently in the media to help keep us in mind.
Can you share examples of substantive changes some of your clients have made after using EnergyPods?
In addition to actually providing a solution for short-term rest, the EnergyPods also serve as a persistent reminder to both management and staff that in general is important. The biggest change we see is the shift in mindset within the organization to a “pro-sleep” attitude. That’s important, because getting individuals to focus a little on their sleep habits can have immediate impact on his or her physical health, mental well-being and productivity.
What are the top three things companies can do beyond integrating EnergyPods into the work environment for corporate fatigue management solutions?
1. Educate: Most people know very little about how sleep works. Short sleep seminars that provide some basic information about sleep cycles and helpful does and don’ts about habits are a great, easy way to help employees improve their sleep awareness.
2. Support: Implementing some simple policies with a little tech support are a simple next step. My favorite one: having a no-email policy between 10pm and 6am. The best solution is that emails stay on the server and then disperse in the morning. Simply knowing that you don’t have to monitor your device until when you get up helps people relax in the evening, sleep better at night and feel less stressed overall.
3. Reward: Aetna announced that it was going to offer its employees rewards for getting enough sleep on a regular basis. A revolutionary idea, that helps nudge employees to thinking about their sleep. And it’s simple to implement with today’s activity and health trackers. Such systems have real merit: getting the right amount of sleep has lots of positive effects and it doesn’t take a costly reward to get them there. We’ve even introduced an employee sleep shop that helps great a positive spiral of awareness and useful items to take advantage of this type of thinking.
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