Napping inside a Box Is Japan’s Answer to Workplace Exhaustion

Napping inside a Box Is Japan’s Answer to Workplace Exhaustion

Will people really want to sleep inside a box standing? 

Japan has the most hardworking people in the world. Grinding hard is so deeply ingrained into Japanese culture that 37% of companies in the country make their employees work 45 hours or more in overtime every month. The Japanese workforce hesitates to take time off work, so much so that in 2019 it was made legally mandatory for employees to take five days a year off. 

Suffice to say, working in Japan can be stressful, and workers could definitely use a break—if not paid time off for vacations, then at least a short nap. To make napping at work possible, two Japanese companies, furniture supplier Itoki Corporation and plywood firm Koyoju Gohan KK, have joined hands to create nap boxes. But is that really a good idea? Let’s take a look at the napping culture in Japan and how people are responding to the nap boxes. 

Understanding “inemuri”

The Japanese word “inemuri” means sleeping at work. In most countries, if you fall asleep at the office, your boss would be pissed off at you for not taking your work seriously. But it isn’t the same in Japan, where if you fall asleep at your workstation, the boss would think you are tired because of how diligently you have worked. 

In Japan, the average corporate employee is supposed to dedicate their lives to work. They are supposed to spend time working or socializing with coworkers and always leave a good impression on their superiors. Naturally, doing this all the time will leave them drained. So, if an employee shows up at work and participates in everything despite exhaustion, it is seen as a sign of an impeccable work ethic. 

Are nap boxes a good place for inemuri?

Are nap boxes a good place for inemuri?
Image courtesy of Itoki Corp

Japanese companies aren’t the only ones to encourage napping. Many big companies like Facebook, Google and Hootsuite have arranged for their employees to take power naps. 

But what makes Itoki’s nap boxes stand out is that employees are expected to sleep standing up in these boxes. Through its venture into nap boxes, Itoki Corp aims to encourage a flexible approach to resting in the workplace. These boxes have been designed to completely support employees to ensure they feel safe to lean back and sleep without any stress of falling. 

To completely understand this product, we need to know that an inemuri is a nap from which you can wake up and continue with work at a moment’s notice. Hence, sleeping upright while still comfortably and ergonomically might be a great way to ensure that you don’t end up sleeping too deep and unable to work afterward. 

Moreover, you are also not supposed to encroach on other people’s space when practicing inemuri. Stretching out and taking up a lot of space when sleeping is considered a social disruption. This makes nap boxes an attractive option because you barely take up any room, all the while getting some much-needed rest.

Why people aren’t responding well to these nap boxes

Despite being a well-intentioned project, the nap boxes are not being received well by people on social media. Some say that these boxes are claustrophobic and resemble a coffin. Others are against the idea because they believe creating healthier work conditions and not overworking employees is more effective than providing sleep solutions for the workplace. 

Overworking is a serious problem in Japan, especially when you consider its aging population. Japan even has a term for working yourself to death—karoshi. According to Statista, as of 2021, about 1,935 people had committed suicide because of work-related difficulties. This number has come down significantly compared to the past decade, with suicides reaching a high of 2,472 in 2012. 

Taking both the criticism and the statistical figures into account, it makes sense why nap boxes are seeing a backlash. Many consider it a band-aid solution to the more significant issue of overworking that the country needs to address, as it cannot afford to lose more people from its workforce and shrinking population.

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Header image courtesy of Freepik

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