words Beatrice Galilee
For anyone prone to the irresistible sinking of the afternoon slump, help is at hand: a chair that actually encourages you to take a snooze. Beatrice Galilee is caught lying down on the job.
After three days of wandering around the architecture department half dead with bits of cardboard stuck to my hair and most of my fingers glued together, it became apparent that 72 hours without sleep is not a great way of achieving a first class degree. Some dear friends took it upon themselves to march me to an empty wood workshop and throw me onto a bed of flattened cardboard boxes. There they left me, having locked the door, returning to pick me up only five hours later – whereupon I made my groggy way to the CAD room again.
It’s probably fair to say I would have paid a good portion of my student loan to get some decent sleep at that point. And perhaps in the not so distant future that will be an option. For £300 a month, offices, universities, hospitals and schools can rent the “Energy Pod”, a chair to be placed in a quiet room for employees to get 40 winks in before getting back to work. Power napping, of course, being more energising than a troubled night’s sleep. It’s all about the type of sleep you get apparently.
As the person most likely to go without sleep in our office, I went along to Metronap’s headquarters in south London to try the chair out. I was a bit shocked. In the corner of a small office space was the Energy Pod. It’s not particularly cosy-looking or pod-like for that matter. The chair is grey, it has a clock-timer buried into one of the arms for the alarm, headphones to provide sleep-inducing music and a giant white helmet or visor. It looks like a cross between a dentist’s chair, a long-haul aeroplane seat and a CAT-scanner.
Somewhat reluctantly I clambered into the chair, the headphones went on and I pulled the visor over my face. It wasn’t dark and I could still see my legs and arms and the carpet floor. Apparently if they had made it totally dark, it would have been a dead loss for anyone suffering from claustrophobia. A few buttons later and the chair lifted up my legs so my feet were on a level with my heart. Twenty minutes is ideal for a good power nap and the countdown had begun.
The music played and my eyes started watering from the piercing whale song. I could have turned it off, but I discovered to my horror that, just a few minutes in, my legs and arms had succumbed. They were already asleep. It was like being in a coma. I could hear the sound of some guy tapping at his computer. I was comfortable enough, but at the same time I was inspecting the slightly mountainous black-painted inside of this visor – a weird not formed shape, like the inside of a car bonnet. This is what I was staring at while not sleeping. Twenty minutes later, instead of a beeping noise, the whole chair vibrated to tell me that my nap was over. It might have been more energising to keep the vibrate on, but that’s another story.
The chair is marketed as the professional workaholic’s alternative to a snooze on the loo or collapsing at your desk. The market research claims that employees who have an Energy Pod in the office work a lot more efficiently.
I wonder though whether the effectiveness of this chair is more psychological than anything else. After all, if my experience was anything to go by, what you get is little more than a lie down. But then if my employer cared enough about my sanity to buy me an Energy Pod, and I knew that I could lie down in peace for a few minutes each day, maybe I’d feel a bit more valued and put more effort into my work in consequence.