How enterprise capital of Spain found siestas are good for business

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The Independent Online

Businesses in Spain have struggled to match their idiosyncratic hours with the rest of Europe, but the siesta refuses to lie down. Now employers in Catalonia, Spain's most entrepreneurial region and out of step with the rest of the nation in that respect, have bowed to the inevitable and accepted the lunchtime snooze as part of the working day.

Businesses in Spain have struggled to match their idiosyncratic hours with the rest of Europe, but the siesta refuses to lie down. Now employers in Catalonia, Spain's most entrepreneurial region and out of step with the rest of the nation in that respect, have bowed to the inevitable and accepted the lunchtime snooze as part of the working day.

"A short rest after lunch at work could soon become the norm," observed the hard-nosed organ of Catalan capital, La Vanguardia, this week. The siesta is to join gyms, creches, libraries and language classes as office perks once resisted by employers, but now welcomed as a way of motivating workers.

Research worldwide reveals that professional productivity improves among those who nap after lunch, La Vanguardia notes. Studies confirm what any office worker knows, that between 2pm and 4pm you feel a little sluggish. Accordingly, one of Spain's most successful companies, the Catalan-based MRW courier service, has installed reclining chairs in its offices, both in Barcelona and Madrid, into which employees may slump, with the additional offer of a soothing massage.

Francisco Loscos, professor at Barcelona's Esade business school, said: "Companies want their people to be as motivated as possible; so, many invest in everything to promote the happiness and relaxation of their workers, and that includes the siesta."

Cutting-edge Catalonia has rehabilitated an ancient practice for the hi-tech age. It was an entrepreneurial Catalan who, some years back, founded a nationwide string of shops where you can walk in and "buy" a 30-minute siesta and massage.

"We noticed that many people came in after lunch for a massage, but they really wanted a siesta. They just drifted off," said Marina Egea, manager of a Barcelona branch of "Masajes a 1,000" - named in pre-euro days when a massage cost 1,000 pesetas, or about £4. Today, €4 buys you a half-hour siesta.

The Spanish working day can be gruellingly long. "Morning" lasts until 2pm or even 3pm (which Spaniards call "midday") before a break for lunch. It's unusual to return to work before 5pm, but many stay until 7pm or 8pm. It's hardly surprising that some doze off, or risk their health and safety by stumbling on half asleep.

"We sleep about an hour less every day than the average European, which is dangerous," says Fernando Buqueras y Bach, of a Spanish citizens' advice group. Spaniards have high rates of accidents on the road, at home and at work. Now sleep-starved Spaniards may at last justify their siesta as not only a mark of civilisation, but a boost to the nation's economy.

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