NATIONAL SLEEP FOUNDATION — As NSF’s SleepTech program continues to grow, we thought it would be appropriate to share some insights with one of the industry’s first leaders, Christopher Lindholst, CEO and Co-Founder of MetroNaps.
Founded in 2003, and based on the then “crazy idea” of encouraging workers to sleep on the job, the company developed its signature EnergyPod, widely recognized as the world’s first chair expressly designed to encourage napping in the workplace. Today, EnergyPods are ubiquitous at leading companies, universities, and health care facilities across the globe.
Christopher currently serves as the SleepTech Council’s Chair. He describes himself as the “biggest cheerleader” for the organization and for the industry as a whole.
Looking back 15 years ago, where did you think the sleep technology space was going?
At the time, what we saw was a real need for sleep among real human beings. We weren’t really thinking about the industry as a whole, but more specifically on what kind of sleep solution could we provide employees so they would be happier, healthier, and more productive.
How receptive were people to the idea?
In the beginning, it was really quite varied. As is somewhat the case today, the work culture was one that placed a stigma on napping. Now, we knew from our research — and our own personal experiences — that exhausted employees would sneak away for a quick cat nap in the midst of long workdays. So, the emphasis became on educating employers about the value of sleep.
Compare attitudes in 2018 to back then?
They’re definitely changing for the better. To a large degree it’s generational, I believe. Members of the Millennial generation are much more aware of their need for balance and of the benefits of a quick, restorative nap during a long workday. To them there’s no stigma and no shame in grabbing 40 winks.
It’s sort of the inverse of attitudes toward smoking indoors, perhaps?
Absolutely. An older generation of workers smoked on the job. It took decades for that behavior to be frowned upon. And now, of course, no one would imagine smoking in the workplace. I can see us moving toward a point where workers would expect that as a matter of course there will be nap rooms or EnergyPods. It will be a given, right up there with the water cooler and coffee machine.
How soon do you think that will be?
Hopefully before I’m ready to retire. [laughter]. I think we’re about half way there.
In addition to leading MetroNaps you’ve devoted a great deal of time and care to leading overall SleepTech® efforts. Why is this important to you?
There are three big reasons. First of all, I’m pleased to be a part of building this incredible network of companies and organizations that are at the forefront in this space. It allows all of us to share ideas, pursue JVs, and see where our efforts overlap and how we can best leverage and optimize those connections.
Secondly, it’s important to cheerlead for startups and companies that are in the midst of developing the next generation of cool technologies and projects.
And finally, it’s about amplifying our individual voices about the importance of sleep. The more we can spread the word about all of the incredible research into sleep health — and the practical implications and solutions for people who are lacking sleep — the better it is for our industry and for all of the people who our industry can help.