We often think that the business world is more suited to morning people than evening people. But at a time when a large number of workers are yearning for more flexibility, there are calls for employers to take greater account of their employees’ internal clocks.
This new mode of organization was named “chronoworking” by the British journalist Ellen Scott. This portmanteau comes from the contraction of “time” (“chrono” in Latin) and “work” (“working” in English). It designates a practice which consists of adapting the work rhythms of employees according to each person’s biological clock. This is based on the idea that not everyone can achieve peak cognitive performance at the same time.
Because yes, we all have different rhythms, linked to our internal clock. Some are more early risers and others are more night owls. So-called “morning people” are generally more efficient at the start of the day but their performance declines as time passes. Conversely, “evening” people often struggle to get up to go to the office or start their day by teleworking. They are in great shape in the evening, which makes them, in theory, very suitable for nightlife.
However, night owls are much less so in standard professional life. Finnish researchers claim in a study, published in 2021 in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, that evening workers perform half as well at work as their morning counterparts. And this, regardless of their gender, their usual sleep time or even their working hours. The authors of this research also found that night owls tend to retire earlier than early risers, due to disability.
More flexibility for greater attractiveness
“Chronoworking” encourages employees to adapt their work pace to their physiological needs. For example, evening people may spend their morning completing cognitively undemanding tasks, such as writing and sending emails. Conversely, early risers have every interest in carrying out the tasks that require the most energy and concentration before lunchtime, in order to avoid the famous afternoon “slump”.
For Dr. Lindsay Browning, sleep specialist, “chronoworking” can be an interesting strategy to increase productivity. “Getting more in tune with your biological clock at work can only have a positive impact. Whether or not we’re a morning person isn’t something we can really change, but we can adapt our behaviors to our natural inclinations.” she told Stylist magazine.
But, beyond these individual arrangements, employers would benefit from providing more flexibility to working and meeting times. This would allow their teams to become more efficient, while strengthening their attractiveness. For good reason, workers are showing great enthusiasm for different working time arrangements, including the four-day week and asynchronous work. They look very favorably on companies that implement them because they believe that they place freedom, autonomy and trust at the heart of the managerial philosophy.
“Chronoworking” is a continuation of this general movement. Managers can apply the principles of this mode of organization by trying to take into account everyone’s attention cycles when organizing a meeting or brainstorming session. In general, they must ensure that they offer enough flexibility to their employees to allow them to find the right balance between their internal clock and their professional obligations.