Well-Being//

Some Companies Are Letting Night Owls and Early Birds Work When They’re Most Optimized

One company has seen that “employee satisfaction with work-life balance has risen 39% … to nearly 100%” over 10 years.

anniepaddington/Getty Images
anniepaddington/Getty Images

Expected to be in the office at 9 a.m., when your natural falling-asleep time has always been 2 a.m.? Or do 8 a.m. meetings work just fine for you? The circadian rhythms governing your natural sleep-wake time is called your chronotype, and with an eye on productivity, more and more companies are making an effort to cater towards their workers’ natural sleep cycles, reports the New York Times.

“A full 80 percent of people have work schedules that clash with their internal clocks, said Celine Vetter, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder and director of the university’s circadian and sleep epidemiology lab, to the Times.

That results in tiredness, reduced performance at work, and errors, not to mention health problems like heart disease, obesity, anxiety, and depression. (A 2015 Harvard Medical School study found that “for night owns, working during the day increases diabetes risk,” according to the Times.)

But what if you could work when you were the most comfortable, meaning you’d gone to bed when you felt like it and risen naturally, without an alarm clock?

Southwest Airlines and the United States Navy are two employers who are paying attention to their employees’ internal clocks when assigning shifts. At other companies – mainly in the software, financial, and pharmaceutical industries – employees are expected to come into the office for “core hours” during the middle of the day, but manage their own work hours otherwise – which leaves room for sleeping later or getting up earlier and finishing early, whatever is preferred.

In pharmaceutical company AbbVie’s Denmark offices, employees take a course that helps them create schedules that play on their strengths when it comes to their sleep-wake cycle and everything in-between – alertness, down periods, etc. Complicated work can be done in periods when they’re most alert, and menial tasks can be completed during periods when they’re more fatigued.

The program is extremely popular: “Employee satisfaction with work-life balance has risen 39 percent from 10 years ago, when the program launched, to nearly 100 percent today, according to company surveys.”

Of course, there are easy, cheap, and relatively non-disruptive ways to cater to chronotypes, like by offering flexible hours, although many corporate managers have it hard-wired in them to prefer the early bird. Yet most office workers don’t need their days completely rearranged, but simply delayed an hour or two, Camilla Kring, a sleep cycle consultant at companies like AbbVie and Medtronic, tells the Times,

An extra hour or so of sleep sounds delicious to this night owl.

Originally published on The Ladders.

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