Sleeping on the job. This may seem like a rude and unruly thing to do at the office while at work, but surprisingly, it’s allowed and sometimes encouraged here in Japan. The reasons are simple: due to the amount of overtime and stress that office workers in Japan face, naps are found to be beneficial to productivity during the remainder of the day. In addition, getting tired of work can be a sign of dedication to the company.
First of all, why nap on the job? Japanese office workers on average, sleep less than many other countries in the world. According to a survey done on 412 Japanese office workers (link here: http://dime.jp/genre/242929/) in 2016, Japanese office workers sleep 6 hours on average, with managers earning a few minutes less sleep on average than ordinary office workers. In addition, many Japanese workers face pressure from working overtime, resulting in the fewer average sleep time. This, combined with the stresses office workers face with keigo and presenting themselves to the office workers, generally means that the average salaryman’s office life is going to be tough and their nights are generally short.
This is where napping comes in handy. Around half a decade ago, a Japanese company introduced a new policy which allows its workers to take power naps for 20-30 minutes, which then spread amongst many other Japanese corporations. The art of sleeping on duty is crucial to some sectors, such as accounting, where accuracy is important. Taking naps help increase accuracy and prevent less mistakes due to more wakefulness gained from sleeping. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/18/japanese-firms-encourage-workers-sleep-on-job)
The health benefits gained from taking naps are justified, but it is also socially justified in Japan. Exhaustion from dedication to the company is welcome. In Japanese, this is called 居眠り, or sleeping while present. This does not include sleeping in the office, as Japanese people can sleep anywhere in the public: including trains and parks. Japanese parents are advised to sleep with their children in order to raise them to be independent adults, and so sleeping in the presence of others may seem natural for many Japanese people. This also stems back from the era of the samurais, where it is considered virtuous to sacrifice sleep over study.
Is “inemuri” considered sleeping in Japan? The answer is no: “inemuri” is considered differed than sleeping at night or even taking naps. Sleeping in the presence of others is considered a state in Japan where your mind is “away”. You are expected to come back to reality when needed, as opposed to sleeping or napping where you are committing your body to sleep. Sleeping on the job due to exhaustion or commitment is therefore seen as succumbing to external forces as opposed to dozing off purposefully. For example, during a meeting, you may be excused for dozing off because you make the effort to come to a meeting despite the circumstances. Making a sacrifice in order to attend comes off as a very positive thing, and sleep is therefore excused. (source:http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160506-the-japanese-art-of-not-sleeping)
Despite “inemuri” being treated differently than naps and night time sleep, there are new businesses catering to companies that allow day time sleep. For example, there are private facilities that allows one to rent a private room for them to rest up for dozens of minutes during the daytime. As Japanese companies become more and more lenient towards naptimes in order to increase performance, “inemuri” may not be so different from naps after all.
Therefore, if you are looking to work in Japan and is concerned by the amount of sleep you receive, do not worry. While you may expect an average of 6 hour sleep if you are working in the office, this may be compensated by the allowance of nap times during work. It is all right to doze off for a bit during your job as long as you don’t sleep for an hour. If you are working part-time, however, do not even bother as you are being paid by the hour and sleeping on the job is therefore, akin to slacking off.