As founding partners of an architecture firm in Russia, Mikhail Krymov and Alexey Goryainov were constantly travelling around promoting their firm in the continent and found they could not find places to stay in airports or city centers for reasonable prices. So, in 2012 they invented Sleepbox, a way to catch some z’s on the go.
Peter Chambers, another co-founder acting as CFO and COO, described the project as a research development experiment at first, with Krymov and Goryainov initially doing all of the design themselves and then bringing contract manufacturers in Russia and Europe to bring the product to life.
Sleepbox sells enclosed modules with about 40 square feet of space with a bed and often a television which users can rent for a given period of time. They were originally built for an airport in Moscow, where there are about 50 installations.
“Our major installations right now are in a hotel in Moscow, and in Stockholm, Sweden, at the Bo & Bistro hotel, right across the street from the major sports center Tele2 Arena,” Chambers said.
There are also around five other smaller-scale installations in offices in Europe and Russia.
Last year, Krymov came to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to complete a fellowship as part of his Ph.D. program in Moscow. The fellowship itself is unrelated to Sleepbox, but being at MIT has connected the founder to important new networks and had given him resources to develop and market the product in the United States. He that noticed many technology and creative companies have started purchasing napping pods for their offices, which made him realize that targeting for Sleepbox in the United States should be more oriented toward these companies than it had been in the past.
There are three main markets for Sleepbox. The first is the adaptation of them in office settings. Sleepbox would typically sell them to an office developer, a real estate developer, or tenants of the office spaces.
“They basically don’t charge the people that are there to use them,” Chambers said. “They let the employees go in, close the door, and sort of take a deep breath to clear themselves from the work for about a half hour, an hour.”
The second use is in the hotel setting, which breaks down into two parts. There is the option to take over a floor or so of an existing hotel and use the space to put in more beds so as to manage space as efficiently as possible. Since these are for longer stays there is typically a communal bathroom for all of the Sleepboxes. Chambers described the third use as similar to the office use—single units can be operated independently as vending machines for transient people to use for napping. In these cases, the focus is not to offer overnight stays, and wouldn’t require a dedicated bath space. Units for this purpose might be found somewhere like a shopping center, and there would likely be some sort of reservation system available. Commercially, the price of using a Sleepbox generally ranges from $5 to $15, but the owners set their own prices after buying the initial unit for around $16,000.
Sleepbox is working to change the image of sleep in the office space. There is often a connotation that sleeping is not something that should be acceptable during the day in an operating office, and that self-care should be limited to the home, the founders said.
“As work schedules become flexible and people become more adaptable or amenable to flexible work hours or working at all times of the day, that they are starting to change that cultural understanding and cultural connotation that goes along with sleeping in the office,” Chambers said. “So part of that is changing people’s minds, and the other part of that is best practices to incorporate this.”
Some concerns still exist, however. In traditional office settings, it is important to nap for an appropriate amount of time, taking into account an individual’s REM cycle, otherwise workers can wake up groggy and ultimately be less productive. This, as well as oversleeping, could pose problems for companies that use Sleepbox.
Sleepbox is not stopping at bedrooms. Chambers said that they are working on another development: a water closet unit that could be used in a hotel.
“It’s another tool of changing the way that we look at generational talent management and business, looking at how we structure the way that people are allowed to work and then recharge and harness their productivity and creativity,” Chambers said in regard to his favorite part of the project.
Featured Image by Sleepbox