´´ Inemuri - The Art of Sleeping at Work And Getting Away With It

Monday, March 28, 2016

Inemuri - The Art of Sleeping at Work And Getting Away With It

It's familiar scene played out in numerous offices all over the world on a daily basis. After productively shoving papers from the left side of your desk to the right, having taken a lunch break and coming back to your desk, the demon of fatigue is already lurking around the corner and slowly taking possession of your body and your mind.

You stifle a yawn, your heavy eyelids are slowly dropping. You can hardly keep your head up and could easily succumb to a blissful nap, than suddenly you jerk awake when realizing what was about to happen. You almost fell asleep on the work place in front of you colleagues. A no go in western cultures that could even cost you your job.

Inemuri: Sleeping While Doing Something Completely Different

Not so in Japan. Sleeping in the public, and even at work, is pretty common. It's such a widely spread behavior that the Japanese have a word for it  — Inemuri (居眠り).

Inemuri is not only an action, but rather a statement. And not one of being a slacker, like in the west, but rather it attests the completely opposite. That you're a diligent and hard worker, giving all for the good of the corporation.

If you look to the syllables of Inemuri independently the I stands for "being present". Nemuri means sleeping. Thus, one way of interpreting Inemuri would be being asleep while you are doing something completely different.

But we wouldn't be talking about Japan when such an action wouldn't entail strict rules and wasn't transformed into an art form.

Firstly, engaging in Inemuri is a question of seniority. If you are newbie in the company it isn't a good idea sleeping in the workplace. You are expected to show how actively you are involved for the good of the company. But with seniority come rights in Japan, and as longer you have been with the firm as more often you can sleep during working hours.

Thus, sleeping at work is a sign of status and confidence. It shows to the colleagues that you're indispensable to the company and can get away with having a little nap. Junior staff, by the way, also often get away with an Inemuri. Not because of status though, but because nobody pays attention to them.

The Art of Indulging in Inemuri

Secondly, when engaging in Inemuri you can't pull out your tatami mat and sprawl out under your desk. Neither can you slouch on your office share. The right posture is paramount when indulging in Inemuri. Because sleeping for the sake of sleeping is not honourable. What is, is falling asleep despite your best efforts. 

Thus, although you're actually asleep it is important to sit up, tilt your head forward and look engaged. It must appear as if you are concentrating. That you could wake up at any minute pulling the next hit product out of your sleeve.

In addition, you have to develop a seventh sense when your presence is demanded. When a colleague approaches you with a question you have to wake- up and speak to him.

The Inemuri Posture of These Stock Brokers Leaves a Lot To Wish For!

To perfect your seventh sense of being present when presence is demanded is best done sleeping while commuting. Inemuri is a daily routine in the Japanese public transport system. It's where the Japanese exercise being present while sleeping. It's said that the Japanese seldom miss their station to hop off the train.

An Inemuri can last for five minutes, thirty minutes, an hour. Basically, as long as it is deemed necessary. Afterwards you can happily tell friends and colleagues that you did a nice Inemuri during work, or even boast about indulging in it on a regular basis. Respect and envy is very much assured.

It is said that business people even witnessed situations where Japanese managers fell asleep during presentations or meetings. One Blogger noted that: "The weirdest thing for me was when I had 1:1 meetings with my boss. He would ask me to explain something or give a presentation — he would always sleep through it. It was weird to give a presentation when I knew nobody was listening."

Although happening, it is rare that Japanese managers sleep during presentations or meetings. Most of the time they are just closing their eyes. They do so in order to detach from any visual stimulus in order to concentrate better on the spoken word. Many report about a presentation they gave where they thought that auditors were sleeping, only to find out that they suddenly contributed to a topic with their eyes wide open.

Funny though is that especially coy managers often pretend to sleep during office hours. They do so in order to eavesdrop on what the subordinates talking about when they think they can speak out freely.

What appears to be Inemuri to the unsuspicious observer is actually "Tanuki Neiri" — a fake nap.  But of course Japanese have also developed a seventh sense here and are usually well aware when someone is really sleeping or only simulating. So they. on their behalf, only pretend being very frank.


Japan's Sleep at Work Culture

The art of the urban nap: let's lose the stigma of public snoozing

Inside Japan's Sleep Culture Of Inemuri

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