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Work Strategies for Night Owls and Early Birds

Work Strategies for Night Owls and Early Birds

Megan Malugani / Monster

For night owls and early birds, the traditional 9-to-5 workday can be agonizing. The exhausted night owl drags himself bleary-eyed into the office every morning, while the chipper early bird finds his energy waning well before quitting time.

But there are ways to cope. Experts offer these workplace survival strategies for those with body clocks out of sync with their employers’ hours.

Recognize that It’s Nature, Not Nurture

Early birds and night owls don’t choose to be the way they are and shouldn’t blame themselves for their bodies’ quirks. “It’s a physiological characteristic that’s genetically predetermined, like being tall or blond,” says Carolyn Schur, a Saskatchewan, Canada-based human resources consultant and author of Birds of a Different Feather: Early Birds and Night Owls Talk About Their Characteristic Behaviors. A night owl who has difficulty getting to work on time is not lazy, and an early bird who can’t function well late in the day is not a slacker.

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“Try not to feel guilty or apologize all the time for the way you are,” says Schur, who notes that up to 40 percent of the population may have early-bird or night-owl predispositions. Additional research indicates about 10 percent of the population is comprised of “extreme” night owls or early birds, who may get chronically fatigued, sick or depressed if they work a schedule counter to their nature.

Empower Yourself

Don’t resign yourself to working 9-to-5 if your body rebels. If your company doesn’t already have a flexible scheduling policy, approach your boss. Explain how working your preferred hours would enhance your productivity and effectiveness, for example, or how your employer could extend its hours of service at no additional cost if you came in early or stayed late. “Frame your request in terms that mean something to your employer,” Schur says.

Be Considerate

If your boss lets you start late or leave early, you’ve still got to be a team player. “Don’t leave your colleagues hanging, waiting for a work product they might be dependent on,” says Keirsten Moore, PhD, an associate dean in the School of Management at Columbus, Ohio-based Capital University. Stick to deadlines and clearly communicate with your coworkers and manager about how they can reach you if you are not in the office during regular business hours, Moore says.

Are you an early bird or a night owl? Share in the discussion…


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