A BBC news report discusses the growing field of research showing that work schedules are out of sync with the natural body clocks of employees and how it impacts productivity.
Sleep is a “strategic resource” that most companies are ignoring, according to a white paper by Christopher Barnes, a management professor at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business in the US.
When work schedules are aligned with people’s natural sleep patterns, they produce higher quality and more innovative work because they are more focused, less stressed and generally healthier, he wrote. The opposite is also true – when employees are sleep deprived they are more likely to make major mistakes and suffer from workplace injuries. His research has even shown that night owls behave more unethically in the morning than at night and that early birds were more unethical at night.
But it’s not just about the amount of sleep you get. Whether you can be productive at 8am depends on circadian rhythm. Every organism from primitive bacteria to human beings have a biologically determined, internal body clock, said Till Roenneberg, a professor of chronobiology at the Institute of Medical Psychology at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. And that clock can vary greatly depending the person.
“It’s like feet,” said Roenneberg. “Some people are born with big feet and some with small feet, but most people are somewhere in the middle.”
According to Roenneberg the problem is that our lives typically don’t take into account circadian rhythms as they might have when we spent more time outdoors in natural light. Many companies start the work day at 8am or 9am, putting their work schedules at odds with their employees’ body clock.