Alone in the Dark – At Work

It’s nap time at Huawei. Every day in Shenzhen headquarters the cafeteria starts serving lunch from 12:00 noon. The food hall at H Campus can accommodate a few thousand people at once. By 12:30 the stream of humanity that flowed in is reversed. Thousands return to their work areas for a break.

The practice was very unusual when I first arrived here. From 12:30 until 1:45 pm the lights in every office are turned off. The blinds are lowered. Printers are turned off. No one holds a meeting. People don’t eat at their desks (except a few). It’s rest time.

Many choose to sleep. There are portable cots and blankets, pillows and eye masks. Others rest against their desktop. Some avail themselves of the couches in the common area. Everywhere is quiet (spare the occasional snore!).

But here’s why it works. In the middle of the day people take time out. They put work aside. Some will take lunch off campus with a colleague. Others will read. I take online university courses on Coursera. It’s a welcome interruption to an otherwise pressured day.

Try this at work

The mid-day break is an element of Chinese culture I derided at first. It’s like the movie Cocoon to see all these people sleeping. It didn’t feel right. Where are the working lunches? The sandwiches eaten over keyboards? The multi-party conference calls while someone texts an order for fast food?

Instead there’s now tranquility and peace. The mid-day break is a chance to forget the worries and refresh yourself.

Today I’m the first up to shut the lights and close the door. I take an hour to myself and attend my classes. I watch lectures in a dark and quiet space with no interruptions from email, calls or colleagues – that is, unless they start to snore!

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