Should Companies Change Work Hours to Support Night Owls?

Should Companies Change Work Hours to Support Night Owls?

Last year a sleep study found an increased risk of mortality among night owls, those people who prefer to stay up late. This was the first study to show a mortality correlation. Other studies have shown increased chronic disease in individuals who prefer the midnight hours.

But the conclusions drawn from this study may not be the correct interpretations. In fact, the author, Dr. Kristen Knutson, has suggested that there are many more factors that contribute to the findings other than simply sleep and that we should be careful making generic assumptions regarding the meaning of the findings.

Too many research articles present findings that end up being misconstrued, taking the results literally rather than looking at other explanations.

In fact, there are a whole host of possible changes in our culture that could be beneficial for individuals and the companies for which they work.

Thus, the conclusions drawn should be multifactorial and explore the many factors that could improve life for night owls. This could result in successes for employers as well.

Imagine a world where night owls do their work into the late hours and then sleep in before going back to work. Yea, revolutionary, right? A bimodal work schedule, allowing flexibility for employees that like staying up late and, just perhaps, might be a time of increased productivity for those employees.

Think about it — work from 11am-5pm, then go home, relax, and start working again around 10pm-1am. You get the same amount of hours in each day, but on your own flexible schedule, with a nice break in between.

I’m not spitting out all opinion. When you look at other studies, there are some interesting findings.

#1 Night owls may be more intelligent and creative than morning larks.

#2 Adults who picked their own work schedule had increased productivity and job satisfaction.

#3 Health could be related to how long you sleep rather than when you sleep.

I’d hate to think that people who are night owls tend to have more brains than early risers. That’s discrimination, right? However, one study claimed improved grades for kids who were able to sleep in. Another study looked at adolescents with a later sleep schedule and found them to be more intelligent and creative than others who went to bed early.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. These studies were not the highest quality and allow for a significant number of confounding factors. But they provide an interesting perspective that should not be ignored.

I am a night owl so I’d love to think I am more intelligent and creative than my counterparts. Unfortunately, logic tells me this is not the case. There has to be another reason why these studies showed a difference.

Maybe, just maybe, our society’s norms do not allow the flexibility to stretch our creative minds. If we could dictate our own work schedules, would that change these findings?

What may be most important is to figure out the ideal circumstances for each individual that will allow them to be the most focused and productive.

If we tailor work time to worker, perhaps more creativity and innovation will follow. I’m certainly at the best of my ability when I’m not tired. I’d love to see what would happen if everyone worked at the top of their game.

When you make the decision to work, rather than being forced to follow a schedule, it would make sense that you’d be more productive and more satisfied. One survey found this to be true. Not only are employees satisfied with their own work, but they were also happier with their employers.

I understand that there are necessary meetings or teamwork activities in every job. Why do these need to be in the beginning of the day? If an employee needs to be in the office, then time it for midday when there would be overlap between morning risers and night owls.

Furthermore, work is not about quantity, but quality.

I’d bet that night owls have a number of great ideas and could increase efficiency around midnight, so why not let them work these hours if the output is excellent?

Rethinking work hours could be the best thing a company ever did for their production.

I’m aware that the original study cited showed increased mortality, but I’m not convinced that it is because night owls stay up late. In fact, isn’t it possible that staying up late while required to wake up early for work could cause the health problems noted? This causes decreased sleep time and multiple studies have shown that decreased sleep hours are associated with poor health.

What if we did a study comparing people who go to bed early and wake up early to night owls that go to bed late and wake up late? And let’s say that each of these groups gets the same amount of sleep hours.

I can’t claim to know the answer to this question. And we’d probably need to look at a longer term model to research this idea, as it would take a regular schedule over months or years to see health improvements from a change in sleep cycle. But I think it’s worth considering.

I have always felt more productive and focused late at night. I often say I love it when everyone else in the house is asleep. I get so much work done.

There are many individuals who have the same makeup as me, but many who are the opposite. It’s possible that the focus on quantity of work time rather than quality of productivity and innovation results in decreased health of our nation.

This study highlights the need to revisit work hours, not change sleep hours. If we improve our work culture and allow individualized and flexible schedules, perhaps we can also increase the health of the country. It’s worth a try, isn’t it?

Should Companies Change Work Hours to Support Night Owls?

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