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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 104 - Wake-up call to invigorate quick-kip club

READERS familiar with The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, may recall that Badger, after a hearty breakfast, was in the habit of retiring to his study and settling himself in an armchair "with his legs up on another and a red cotton handkerchief over his face".

As a generally-unsleeping watchdog of the pubIic weal, I admire Badger, who, in human social terms, seemed upper working-class with a character in the style of a forceful but kindly trade union leader like Jack Jones, of the Transport and General Workers’ Union. He was also physically-pragmatic in that he knew the restorative value of a snooze, a bit of shut eye or - call, it what you will - forty winks.

I am in the post-lunch, quick-kip club that likes a bit of instant oblivion, when available, so that I have the possibility of waking like a pigmy-sized giant refreshed.

Thus, I am one with other daylight, brief sleep-snatchers whose minds have rocked the cradle of history such as Churchill, Napoleon, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison and Margaret Thatcher.

While there was a time when meadow, grove and stream, the earth and every common sight, to me did seem apparelled in celestial light, it was also a time when I needed at least eight hours’ unbroken sleep to restitch the frayed mental tissues after a day’s grappling with intransigent verbs, unlocking nominative cases and replacing fused participles.

If I had spent a night pounding my pillow and battling with blankets, I tended next day, in some work-free interval, to seek a resting place somewhere in the labyrinthine viscera of The Scotsman’s old North Bridge headquarters, where there were some temporarily abandoned offices with open roll-top desks into which one could creep; some colleagues used nothing else.

Modern offices have few or no such refuges; open plan arrangements and strip lighting making the staff feel like bacilli under a microscope and earning the title of a former television detective serial, No Hiding Place.

That is unacceptable. Managements should provide staff slumber rooms into which tired toilers could stagger and doss down in a setting like an elephants’ graveyard and so combat metabolic disturbances including irritability and lack of concentration.

In the United States, companies have introduced "power naps" in which executives are encouraged to slump like dead bats at their desks for 20 minutes and awaken, hopefully, with creativity and energy boosted.

In a wake-up call for more office sleep, Professor Richard Wiseman, a University of Hertfordshire psychologist, claims that beds should be installed in workplaces to get the best production from their staff. In a comprehensive university survey, nearly a third of people revealed that their brains went into overdrive before drifting off to sleep. Only 11 per cent believed they had their most creative thoughts while working.

While the research failed to reveal surging creativity when the sleepers awoke, inspirational results might be tested by a Japanese hotel concept - characterised by honeycomb-type capsules in place of rooms - planned for Britain by Simon Woodroffe, the owner of the Yo! Sushi chain of restaurants.

The capsules, ten square metres in size, are luxurious, with TV, rotating beds and aircraft-style lighting, but for use by office staff in constructive-slumber mode, they could be fashioned to suggest the stark austerity of monks’ cells into which staffers could lurch for a permitted period and possibly emerge with visionary gleams in their eyes and uplifting ideas about boosting the company’s exports rather than staggering out with a splitting headache and the realisation that the new redundancy figures should have been handed to the board meeting half an hour ago.

The capsules could keep staff as snug as cockles in their shells and be picked out when needed and would be useful in checking on the whereabouts of personnel who might otherwise be tempted to improve their creativity in the nearest pub.

Sleeping capsules could not only benefit the tired workplace masses, but could also provide a ready, easily-replenished reservoir of talent, alert and eager to work their keyboard fingers and production-line hands to the bone, possibly preventing a yawning gulf between staff and management.

If bosses say "nodding doing" to dropping-off zones, workers should arise from their unofficial slumbers and urge them to bedrock action - badgering is the word.

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