Want More Productive Employees? Match Their Work Schedules to Their Biological Clocks

Check, check – one, two, three check – ahem, ahem … is this thing working… I have big news for you, ladies and gentlemen. One that might change your life and business as usual.
Drum roll, please.

I apologize for being dramatic so as to get your attention, but what you are going to find out is so powerful that in all likelihood you might join us in drumming about it.
Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity, so I appreciate your giving me yours.
I know that your time is more valuable than money, so I made sure that your time investment in reading this gets you greater returns.

If you are a leader, you will discover here one of the greatest discoveries on how to maximize your team’s performance and productivity, how to get the most out of them, their 100%, and so raise your bottom line.
If you are a professional, if this catches on with your help, it will significantly increase your well-being, mental health, and performance, which will increase your value for your employer, along with your status, rank, and earnings.

Normally, I am all about virtues and consciousness, but this time, it is all about time and rhythms.
It is not about time being money, but about flextime at work, but not as you might know it. It is about the circadian rhythms or biorhythms of your people, which you need to consider in your business to take advantage of the time and rhythms. Circadian rhythms or biorhythms are biological processes, including sleep-wake patterns. Our biological clock regulates sleep patterns, feeding behavior, hormone release, and blood pressure – all of which determine our capability to function and perform our work.

You want your employees to be more productive, happier, and healthier, therefore here is an astoundingly powerful way to make that happen with one simple, cost-free measure: allow your people to choose their work times to match their own biorhythms or biological clocks according to their chronotypes – their tendency to be energized and fully capable at different times of the day. Simply put, don’t force your early risers to stay into the evening, and don’t force your “night owls” to come in before noon. Team activities, such as meetings and collaborative projects should be scheduled for afternoons when everyone can give their best and be productive.

All companies are missing out on enormous potential and profits due to the current paradigm that is reigning in most organizations. The problem is the deep-seated non-diversity or partial D&I policies. Meaning to say, “larks” (a.k.a A-persons) and “sharks” are running the businesses and “night owl” types (a.k.a B-persons) are forced to adapt, whereby they are not able to work at their peak and give their best. When you force your team members, whose biorhythm is that of the “night owls” to work in the mornings, they can only perform at their less than full capacity and become (mentally) ill.

There is nothing they can or should do about it because they are born this way – it is their chronobiology and genetics, but you can and should do much about it – allow full flextime at work, for one. Flexible hours schedule allows workers to alter workday start and finish times according to their biorhythms, and to be fair and not cruel to the “night owls”, the “core” period for local team activities should be in the afternoon (ideally between 1-5 p.m.) rather than in the mornings.

With postcapitalistic values gaining momentum, most companies are introducing new policies such as D&I and flextime, but in most cases, it is all just a front, which the executives introduced so that they could get more followers and customers.  Sadly, in too many companies, diversity means only hiring more women, and flextime means that you could come to work one hour earlier or later than the standard 9-5. Is that what “diversity” and “flexible working hours” really mean? Surely not in the eyes of the “night owls”’ types. Due to their natural biorhythms, evening persons can not give their 100% in the mornings, so they should be allowed to do their work at their peak times, given broad leeway in setting their own work schedule.

Various researchers looked into “chronotype diversity” of people in different occupations. They found that individual workers were more productive at certain times of the day depending on their chronotype. This refers to the underlying circadian rhythms or ‘body clocks’ of people which indicate their biological predispositions towards periods of activity and rest. Most importantly for employers and leaders, it refers to the periods of productivity of two different chronotypes of workers: “larks” and “night owls”.

Chronotype diversity may not be feasible for all roles or in every context but it is in most. For tasks that are interdependent staff needed to be on the same circadian cycle, such as emergency workers and surgical teams, they need to peak at the same and right time. However, for jobs that require “sustained attention” and a member of the team to be alert at all times, like long-haul flight crews, nurses, and police on surveillance, it benefits employers to have a mix of people who peak at different times.

A recent study aimed to discover when each chronotype was strongest. They tested early risers and night owls throughout the day and found that night owls hit their peak strength at 9 p.m. This is because their central nervous system and spinal cord excitability are each peaking at the same time. This gives night owls a burst of energy in the evenings to put toward things like creative endeavors, invention, and imagination. Early risers, on the other hand, never reach this same level of strength because their central nervous system and spinal cord excitability never line up at the same time. They hit a peak around 9:00 a.m., and then experience a downhill slope from there. Night owls are mentally alert for a longer part of the day than early birds.

One detail to bear in mind is that the majority – around 60 percent – of us are neither “larks” nor “owls”, we’re an intermediate mix of the two. Another factor to consider is that chronotype isn’t just about the time you go to bed and get up in the morning, it’s also about your optimal time of functioning – larks tend to be at their best earlier in the day, while owls tend to function better later on, which could have obvious advantages for certain career paths involving evening work or night shifts.

We live in a world that worships the early riser. The entire world wants us to be morning people. This pressure starts early in our lives with the school schedule and continues then with the traditional 9-to-5 workday. The early bird catches the worm, so they say, and pop culture is filled with variations on the theme that early risers do better in life, get more done, and usually with a smile or their face. This may be true in the current paradigm that favors morning persons but in reality, there is no such thing.

Both chronotypes can do equally well in life but if the “night owls” don’t do well, get less done, and have no smile on their face, it is only because they are forced to be like “larks”, to be what they are not, which is cruel.

Forcing one chronotype to live like the other chronotype is very much like forcing homosexuals to be heterosexuals or vice versa. It is pure cruelty and torture, leading to mental illnesses and reduced productivity.

The world isn’t full of “early birds”. And it’s not all “night owls” either. No one knows the exact percentages of different chronotypes (definite morning or evening types, or moderate morning or evening types) but regardless of whose speculations you take as the truest, according to every research, the “larks” are not a majority at all. Most studies show that less than a quarter of folks identify themselves as morning larks. Well, that’s really not much. Our entire approach to school and work is built around the genetic predisposition of less than a quarter of the population! How fair or wise is that!

Moreso, it’s actively terrible for more than a third that either identifies themselves as “night owls” or as moderate evening types who for medical, family, or other reasons prefer much more coming to work late. Approximately a third of the population are “night owls”, who are tortured every single workday to rise early to go to either school or work. This has to change for the world to change for the better. Because, how can any team flourish under a system that penalizes 30% of its members before they even come to work?

Equity is about respecting someone else’s conditions as much as you’d love for them to respect yours. This is also the golden rule – treating everyone as you would want them to treat you, or not treating them the way you wouldn’t want them to treat you (with disrespect, disregard, ruthlessness, cruelty, torture…).

The psychology of ‘chronotypes’, as it’s known, largely backs up the popular image of early rising, happy go-getters; though, as ever, the reality is much more nuanced. Like every propaganda, this one also serves an agenda of those who propagate it, nothing else. However, even if we ignore the torture and enormous cruelty towards the “night owl” types of people, we can’t ignore the fact that they can’t give us their best when we are cruel to them. If you want the “night owls” to perform to their full capacity, you need to stop being cruel to them and expect them to show up at work in the morning, when it is not necessary. It is against their nature. They are not lazy or lethargic or negligent or passive by nature; they are that way only when you don’t acknowledge their biorhythm and force them to live against their biological clock.

As it turns out, if you are a “night owl”, your sleep problem is not a problem at all. It is your nature, your biorhythm, your biological clock, your genetics, and chronobiology. Nothing to be ashamed of. Late sleepers are made to feel like losers, often mocked. They are tired of being discriminated against. And science has their back. But do you really need scientists’ studies to be humane to others?

Most of the night owl types of people are forced to either adapt or to choose the types of work that doesn’t require them to adapt, such as night-time jobs, which is not fair to them. Although the “night owls” flourish in professions without a time-frame (no shift-work), such as artists, musicians, writers, comedians, dancers, and so on, still, among them, many can give much in the professions that usually favor the early risers. In compliance with the equal employment opportunity, allow them to give you all that they can give by allowing them to work on their schedule.

That the “night owls” do well in life, get much done and with a smile or their face when they are allowed to work on their schedule, is evident in the list of famous “night owls”: Winston Churchill, Barack Obama, Carl Jung, Charles Darwin, Charles Bukowski, Bob Dylan, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Kafka, Prince, Marcel Proust, J. R. R. Tolkien, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, John Travolta, Keith Richards…

According to Wikipedia, some research (the study of 20,000 participants in the U.K.) has found that “night owls” are more intelligent and creative and more likely to get high-paying jobs than larks, or morning persons. The results of many researches indicate that, contrary to conventional folk wisdom, evening-types are more likely to have higher intelligence and creativity scores. A study among 1000 adolescents by the University of Madrid found that “night owls” scored higher than early birds on inductive reasoning tests, which often serve as a proxy for intelligence. However, they lag behind larks in academic scores (when exams are in the mornings).

The Savanna–IQ Interaction Hypothesis holds that more intelligent individuals are more likely to be nocturnal. – “Why night owls are more intelligent” from Department of Management, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Department of Psychology, University College London and Birkbeck College, University of London.
Roberts and Kyllonen found in 1999 that, in a sample of United States Air Force recruits (n = 420), evening types were significantly more intelligent than morning types. 
Night owls are smarter, more creative & have higher IQs by Dr. Kroes

Therefore, if you need more intelligent and creative staff, then you should hire the “night owls” and allow them to match their work schedule to their biological clocks so that they could be more productive.

The systematic study of circadian typology (CT) is relatively recent and has developed rapidly in the two last decades. In 2017, Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to three American scientists (geneticists and chronobiologists) for their paradigm-shifting biological clock discoveries (molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm). All the existing data suggest that this individual difference of circadian types or chronotypes affects our biological and psychological functioning, not only in health and disease but also in work capability. There are countless studies (one of them also here) that reviewed the psychometric properties and validity of CT measures as well as individual, environmental and genetic factors that influence the CT, which tell us to allow professionals to integrate chronobiological aspects of human behavior into their daily practice.

In this day and age, it is ignorant and useless to ignore any longer the biological markers that define differences between CT groups (sleep-wake cycle, body temperature, cortisol, and melatonin), thus we assess here the implications for CT and adjustment to shift-work and jet lag. We all need to acknowledge the differences between CT in terms of cognitive abilities, personality traits, and the incidence of psychiatric disorders. Since it is necessary, I emphasize the limitations and suggest some future avenues of work to overcome them.

One such avenue of work to overcome limitations is the real flextime policy; another is office lightening Indoor Exposure to Daylight Improves Sleep, Cognitive Performance.
A real flextime policy allows staff to determine when they will work, without forcing anyone to jeopardize their health and well-being.

Advantages of complying with flextime

Academic literature has identified benefits of flexible working patterns to employees including life satisfaction, better well-being, a good work-life balance, and health benefits.
Advantages include allowing employees to coordinate their work hours with public transport schedules, with the schedules of their children, and with daily traffic patterns to avoid high congestion times such as rush hour.
Flextime is beneficial to workers pursuing an education.

Advanced organizations introduce flexible working patterns for their employee as a way to increase their productivity level, increasing profitability. Flexible working is also seen as a family-friendly policy, which leads to a good work-life balance for employees.
Many studies have shown that flexible working can provide a wide range of benefits for companies, including an increase in performance, productivity, and reduction in absenteeism, etc.
Flexible working arrangements may be a way for organizations to expand and increase their operations nationally and internationally at a lower cost.

With Millennials becoming the interest of many organizations, flexible working seems to attract them.
One of the positive effects of flexible working patterns is being able to attract highly qualified professionals regardless of chronotype. Early risers can see the benefit of flextime if they prefer to have the freedom to work whenever they want, as sometimes the life circumstances require them to change their schedule.

One of the main advantages of flextime is having freedom, as freedom is the highest goal of all human activity and endeavor. It is the natural longing in every human being.
For the “night owls” flextime means also the freedom from suffering because having to adapt to a disadvantageous schedule, they develop all kinds of afflictions, such as depression and other mental illnesses that lead to chronic physical diseases, addictions, relationship issues, and misery in general.

Many “night owls” are unemployed because they are unable to adapt to the rhythm of the “larks” due to health reasons. So, employment agencies could immensely benefit from a new flextime paradigm. Just think of all the immense unemployment payments that could be reduced and those resources transferred into some other social benefits or tax reduced!

Flexible employment is one of the vital factors in the European Union policy discourse. It is a means to reduce unemployment, increase economic and social cohesion, maintain economic competitiveness and enhance equal opportunities.

However, flexible working is not a standard yet, which is why I’m raising this topic and asking you to come on board for a paradigm shift. So far, it is mostly working parents and pregnant women who benefit from the measures regarding flextime, while the “night owls” are not considered at all.

Naturally, the propagators of the status quo and the current paradigm – the early risers – are quick and eager to point out the disadvantages of flextime but if you compare them against the advantages, they are not relevant enough. Most disadvantages are only real in the current paradigm but in the new paradigm (where flextime becomes the standard), they disappear. Overall, the advantages of flextime undeniably outweigh the disadvantages.

In the current paradigm, the flexible working pattern may not be applicable to all occupational fields but if we all shift the paradigm, then flexibility may be introduced everywhere.

Disadvantages of not complying with flextime

Let us now mention some of the many disadvantages of not implementing flextime into work schedules.

The time you wake up every morning is sealed into your DNA, so no need to feel ashamed about it. However, in the present paradigm, most “night owls” often feel guilt or shame for not raising early, which significantly lowers their overall level of consciousness. And, as we know now (Consciousness Theorem), the level of consciousness determines the level of success and well-being, so your feelings of guilt and shame rob you of chances to live well and be successful.

While staying up after dark was considered a negative trait, this changed in 17th and 18th century Europe (and subsequently spread beyond) due to the development and implementation of artificial lighting but the disdain and disregard for the “creatures of the night” still lingers in the minds of many inconsiderate “larks”. Many “night owls” feel stigmatized by it, which may lower their self-esteem, self-confidence, self-respect, and morale, subsequently lowering their overall level of consciousness and with it the level of success and well-being.

A bad repute is a disadvantage, which is often overlooked but it deprecates the value of the“night owls”. They are often blamed for unpunctuality or attitude problems by ignorant and inconsiderate “larks”. Advanced employers, however, have begun to learn to increase productivity by respecting body clocks through flexible working hours, while the Danish “B-Society” of “night owls” and the American Start School Later movement lobby actively for more school and workplace flexibility for the post-agricultural world. However, the majority of employers and colleagues are backward in that regard, having no consideration for “night owls”.

When there is a mismatch between our external environment and our internal biological clock, our well-being is highly disturbed. As countless studies show, chronic misalignment between our lifestyle and the rhythm dictated by our inner timekeeper is associated with an increased risk for various diseases.

So, another major disadvantage is ruined mental and physical health. There are many causes of depression and one of them is being forced to neglect our biorhythm, to work against our natural sleep cycle. Defying our internal body clock is scientifically proven to be highly associated with levels of depression. A new study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry reported by CNN found that people with a misaligned sleep cycle are more likely to report depression, anxiety and have fewer feelings of well-being. Those who follow their internal circadian clocks may be less likely to suffer from depression than those trying to live on a different schedule.

“The health problems associated with being a “night owl” are likely a result of being a “night owl” living in a morning person’s world, which leads to disruption in their body’s circadian rhythms,” said sleep specialist Kristen Knutson, an associate professor of neurology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Therefore, if you are a “night owl” suffering from depression or a “morning lark” who has compassion for all your dear ones who suffer from depression due to a misaligned sleep cycle, then you should join us in drumming about the need for flextime becoming a standard, for a paradigm shift.

Depression is, unfortunately, not the only illness directly associated with chronotype maltreatment. There is a huge number of diseases attributable to it but let us just mention cardiovascular disease, since it is so prevalent in all societies that regard alarm clocks rather than biological clocks.

Forced to rise earlier than their circadian rhythm dictates, the “night owls” end up being chronically sleep-deprived. Sleep deprivation has all sorts of consequences that are disadvantageous to both the “night owls” and everyone they interact with and work for. One of them is also obesityNot Getting Enough Sleep Linked to Unhealthy Snacking. You can diet and exercise all you want, but as long as you neglect your biological clock, you are disposed to stress that turns you to sugar, caffeine, alcohol, sedatives, cigarettes, drugs, or other toxins.

Sleeping disorders and deficits cause tiredness, fatigue, irritability, difficulty to focus and pay attention, lack of motivation, and mood swings, weaken our immune system, which gives rise to illnesses and can lead to serious health problems, such as gastrointestinal ailments, heart attack stroke, diabetes, vascular diseases, and even cancer. The risk for heart disease increases by 48 percent if we consistently sleep less than six hours.
Numerous studies have proven that insufficient sleep can lead to high blood pressure, clogging of the arteries, and heart failure.
People who can ascribe their sleep disorders to shift work show an especially high risk of cancer. WHO classified nightly shift work as “probably carcinogenic.” Shift workers, such as hospital personal and flight attendants, due to the permanent displacement of the biological sleep-wake order and the use of artificial light tend to develop tumors.

Let us not confuse being a “night owl” with having a delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD), which is a chronic dysregulation of a person’s circadian rhythm (biological clock is delayed) that manifests itself as a difficulty with falling asleep and waking up (it takes hours to do both), falling asleep around 4 a.m. and waking up around noon. Approximately 17 percent of adolescents and adults have DSPD. This disorder affects the timing of sleep, the peak period of alertness, the core body temperature, rhythm, hormonal as well as other daily cycles. No cure is known, and research suggests a genetic origin (a genetic mutation) for the disorder, as well as changes after puberty or a traumatic head injury. Attempting to force oneself onto daytime society’s schedule with DSPD has been compared to constantly living with jet lag.
Many doctors are unfamiliar with the condition, which is why it often goes untreated or is treated inappropriately; DSPD is often misdiagnosed as primary insomnia or as a psychiatric condition.  At its most severe degree, DSPD is not just a disorder but also a disability.

If you need some more convincing about “night owls” being actually born this way (rather than just being lazy), I invite you to educate yourself further about it. For instance, countless studies show that genes determine whether a person is a lark or an evening person. The Per2 gene on chromosome 2 regulates the circadian clock and a variant of it was found in families that demonstrated advanced sleep-phase syndrome. A genetic predisposition is not the only factor, of course. The person’s age also factors in, with teenagers and young adults tending to be “night owls” more than young children and elderly people. Also, the environment we live in influences our biorhythms to an extent. Living in nature or boosting one’s exposure to sunlight (including offices with glass walls), while cutting their exposure to artificial light may turn “owls” into “larks”.

We focused here more on the issues that “night owls” are facing in the world governed by “larks” but the same issues are facing also all the “larks” who somehow ended up working night-shifts, so they need to be treated fairly, too. Regardless of chronotypes, as a civil society, we need to provide opportunities for everyone to work at our peak times and without jeopardizing our health and well-being.

Let us allow our results or outputs to speak louder than our work schedules. If your ability to be your best self and do your best work is being thrown off by a couple of hours one way or another, at what point are you able to recognize that a seemingly harmless adherence to rigid work times holds you and your team back?

Apart from work, it is necessary to consider the chronotypes in schools as well. Kids who are “night owls” are less likely to have good grades if the exams are held in the morning hours, which is both unfair and cruel to them. Poor grades or academic performance doesn’t reflect their intelligence level but sleep deprivation. So, if you are compassionate and a loving parent, you need to prevent this cruelty and unfairness, starting in your own home (acknowledging them as they biologically are) and lobbying and campaigning wherever you can.
According to chronobiology, at their age, due to changing bodies, hormones, and circadian rhythms, as well as puberty (the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the brain undergo a sleep-phase delay in puberty), teenagers’ biological (internal) clocks shift to release melatonin much later than when they were children. Since teens are biologically programmed to go to sleep later, then they need to rise later to function properly but schools’ regulations force them to rise early and deprive them of sleep much-needed for learning and passing the exams. This needs to change and needs to change now. When the school-children schedule is adjusted, then also working parents can better adjust their working time to the flextime with the core period between 1-5 p.m.

In summary, knowing that we live in a world that is regulated by the law of polarity, among other laws, let us embrace the fact that there is also polarity among the people in terms of biorhythms. Although the late risers may be seen as negative, they are simply another pole of the needed dynamics for the world to move forward. Polarity and diversity provide the dynamics for evolution and development. Disregarding and torturing one part of the population for the sake of being able to put everyone in the same “Procrustean bed”, that is, ruthlessly forcing them to fit into an unnatural scheme has a horrific effect on humankind as a whole. And, when it comes to business, it reduces the productivity and profitability of the whole organization.

Therefore, let us each do our part to shift the old paradigm. Let us start discussions about it in our circles because right now, we’re not having these conversations at all. And, as influencers and leaders, let us change the policy in our organizations to that of flextime in the true sense of the word, rather than just an hour or two flexibility. If there is a need for a “core” period for local team activities, let it be in the afternoon, such as between 1-5 p.m. This way no one is tortured or compromising their health and everyone is at their productive phase.

We need to break free from 9 to 5 society and its cruelty and lack of respect for “night owls”. Quality of life, health, infrastructure, and productivity would all improve if we offered people work hours matching their circadian rhythms. The world without alarm clocks is the world with much less cruelty, torture, disrespect, (mental) illness, and other sufferings – in other words, a world with more peace and prosperity for all. Switching alarm clocks with biological clocks and respecting the people of different chronotype – this is a human rights issue.

So, ask yourself, what can you yourself do about it. The least you can do is to help spread the word about it by liking and sharing this insight.
What do you say?!

For the sake of altering work schedules and flextime policy, we would like to know the percentages of different chronotypes, so please let us know yours and share it with others, so that the results of this survey are as accurate as possible: Chronotypes survey

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