Sunday, March 2, 2008

THE AGE: A nod in a pod makes work a happier businez-z-z

IT'S the new frontier in the fight against office fatigue. As a growing number of sleep-deprived staff nod off at their desks, companies are turning to new technology to help keep them awake.

Futuristic "energy pods" are being installed in offices to let employees take power naps in a bid to cut down on sick leave.

The $20,000 pods cocoon the stressed-out worker from outside noise as calming music is played through headphones. A zero-gravity position with legs elevated promotes blood flow and offers a sense of weightlessness as workers snooze in designated office "napping stations."

After 15 to 20 minutes a timer wakes the occupant with lights, music and gentle vibration.

Supplier Metronaps has sold 30 pods to major outfits, including mining company BHP Billiton, health insurer MBF and the Australian Institute of Sport.

Chief operating office Alex Silva, who describes himself as a "fatigue consultant", said tiredness was a major issue for many white-collar industries. "Not getting enough sleep can lead to serious health problems and it affects the bottom line of these companies. If their productivity levels are down they're not reaching their full capacity," he said.

Damien Waller, chief executive of Melbourne company iSelect, installed an energy pod at its Moorabbin office to help workers recharge. "Often people have late nights with the kids up late or they've partied a bit too hard the night before, and rather than have them call up and say I'm too sick to come to work or they come in but don't perform well, we think it's better to let them have a quick nap and they might be more productive and feel better about themselves," he said.

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