Night Owls in the Workplaceowl

Accommodating Night Owls Leads to Business Success

Generally, we tend to dismiss or trivialize the behaviors of so-called ‘night owls’ and ‘early birds’ and fail to recognize the implications that these characteristics have for the workplace.

night owl employees face reprimand and dismissal as a result of being late in the mornings. This means that not only is there conflict in the workplace, but employers are also faced with additional costs for recruitment and training of new employees.

night owls also consistently reprot not being really productive at work until about 10:30 in the morning, while early birds valiantly attempt to stay awake through late afternoon meetings. Early birds also resent not having access to their workplaces before 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning. In both instances, workplace productivity and efficiency suffer.

At a time when organizations are looking to maximize the effectiveness of all resources, managers are alsways lokking for cost-saving strategies. One very effective strategy is to review employee peak performance times and implement more flexible work schedules for employees. You’ll find that both productivity and efficiency will improve.

And there are additional benefits. By taking advantage of the night owl and early bird characteristics of your employees, you can increase the number of hours available for customer service with virtually no additonal capital or operational costs. Because employees will be more alert when they are at work, you will also find an improvement in accident rates. this will result in savings in premiums and disability benefits.

Finally, you will find that your employees will generally be healthier, happier and experience more positive relationships at work. This seems an intagible benefit, but if you have night owls working very early shifts or early birds working night shifts, you know how unhappy and unhealthy these employees can be.

Think about it. By accommodating night owl and early bird employees, you can improve customer service, improve employee efficiency and productivity, reduce health and disabiltiy costs, have happier employees and MAKE A BIG IMPACT ON YOUR BOTTOM LINE!

How to Make Workplace Accommodations

1. Determine if the employee is a night owl or an early bird (see Quiz) and when their daily peak performance time is.

2. As much as possible, employees shoud schedule and plan their day according to their daily peak and down times.

3. Make whatever arrangements are necessary to accommodate the schedules. This may require a change in duties or schedules or arrangements for entering or leaving the building beyond the usual times.

If you are currently working with a night owl

  • plan meetings for mid-morning or late afternoon
  • expect to work late in the day and into the evining
  • don’t expect major decisions early in the morning

If you are currently working with an early bird

  • expect to have breakfast meetings
  • plan to be at work well before the appointed time
  • expect to make decisions and have meetings early in the day

How to Accommodate Schedule Preferences at Conferences

Read Jeanne Martinson’s feature in Convene Magazine. Jeanne, a workplace diversity strategist, also writes about time preferences in her book, War & Peace in the Workplace (chapter 12)

Editorial (excerpts), John Hobel, Canadian HR Reporter (Dec. 14, 1998)

“The world is stacked against (night owls) from the moment the alarm clock sounds because society functions according to a schedule tailor-made for early risers.”

“The problem night owls usually run into is the dreaded time clock, for these people are your perennial late-for-work employees. It may not matter how many times you speak to them about arriving late, showing up only 10 minutes past scheduled arrival on a daily basis is an achievement.”

“But before you terminate them for tardiness, why not consider accommodating them? Organizations should routinely ask themselves if work tasks require early morning attention. If not why not let the employee determine their own schedule?”

Interested in Work Flexibility and Work/Life Balance (originally promoted needs of night owls, now promotes workplace flexibility and work/life balance)