As a country with some of the longest working hours in the world, South Korea’s move to encourage government officials to take naps while at work says a lot about the shift within Asian organisations to focus less on ‘traditional’ working hours and more on the need for flexibility.
This week, the capital’s municipal government told all 10,000 of its employees that from August this year, they will be allowed to take naps at work between the hours of 1pm and 6pm, according to reports from Yonhap News Agency.
Staff will be allowed to use empty conference rooms and lounges to nap, while the city moves forward on plans to create more nap rooms in a bid to boost productivity.
“Some people snooze at their desk after lunch. But that’s not a good scene and it is not good for work efficiency either,” Kim Ki-bong, a personnel officer at the Seoul Metropolitan Government, told Financial Times. “A brief nap could be good for easing their fatigue and maintaining their health.”
This push for better-managed working hours is in line with what some companies – such as Google, Nike and Huffington Post – encourage staff to do during work hours.
It also aligns with what other business executives have been saying lately about changing the regular working week and helping people to better manage their personal and professional lives – particularly as we are going to be living longer, and thus working long past retirement age.
Just recently, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, was reported as saying we should be pushing people to work three-day weeks, with four days off to rest and focus on other activities.
While Korea’s government expects these new ‘rules’ to be welcomed by staff, Kim told FT the strong business culture of working long hours – present across much of Asia – will make it difficult for some to get permission from their bosses to sleep on the job.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, South Koreans work the longest hours in the world, with workers putting in an average of 2,092 hours in 2012. However, productivity is low, at just 66% of the OECD average.