WHEN employees work can be more important than WHERE

Your chronotype, or specific circadian rhythms, define your individual levels of alertness, activity, focus, creativity, decision-making and more. (Photo: David Palmer/ALM)

The world of work has evolved in fundamentally different ways since the COVID19 pandemic was officially declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020. The pandemic has accelerated changes already underway and catalyzed new ones. Many of these changes are captured under the umbrella of “the future of work”.

Benefits professionals working in their own companies or embedded in other organizations are at the forefront of many of these changes, such as the expansion of health networks for a more remote workforce. more numerous who have moved since the pandemic but still work in the same organization. This mobile and remote workforce is also induced by small towns even offering them money to move to these small towns now called “Zoom towns” in a Wall Street Journal article, “How Remote Work is Reshaping America’s Urban Geography”. To date, 5 million workers have moved with a forecast of 19 million more given the flexibility of remote work, according to an article in Business Insider.

Related: Quality Sleep: Why Employers Need to Support This Pillar of a ‘New Normal’

In this new world of work and the emerging future of work where the hybrid is becoming more the rule than the exception, it is essential that benefits professionals understand and appreciate the role of the chronotype (biological clock) and the time of day to improve performance, health and well-being. This information will be useful to you personally and professionally as well as to your organization and to your customers, whether internal or external.

What is the secret sauce?

The goal here is to focus on how to gain and maintain a performance edge at work without sacrificing your short- and long-term health and well-being. This is especially important now that more workers are working remotely and workplaces are embracing hybrid working as the norm rather than an alternative. The “secret sauce” for achieving this performance advantage revolves around your chronotype or internal planner. Concretely, the “magic ingredient” of the secret sauce is to synchronize your chronotype with both your work schedule and your work tasks.

What is your timeline?

Three scientists have been awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering the clock gene that governs your circadian rhythm. Your chronotype is genetically determined. Your chronotype is not a preference nor your personality. There are three chronotypes:

  • Morning (morning lark)
  • Intermediate (Hummingbird)
  • Evening (Night Owl)

Your chronotype, or specific circadian rhythms (biological clock), defines your individual levels of alertness, activity, concentration, creativity, decision-making, energy, ethical decision-making, interpersonal senses, resolve problems and a predetermined sleep schedule. It dictates your body’s natural tendency to fall asleep and wake up at a certain time of day.

Are your work schedule and tasks in sync with your chronotype?

There are three steps to gaining and maintaining the Performance Advantage as listed below:

  1. Know your chronotype.
  2. Ask yourself if you, coworkers, or clients suffer from circadian misalignment (working against, not with, your body clock).
  3. Design your work schedule and tasks around your genetically determined chronotype.

Know your chronotype: You can get an idea of ​​your chronotype – morning, intermediate or evening type. A quick way to find out your chronotype is to answer the following two questions.

  • Overall, how is your energy level in the morning?
    • Very slow
    • Low
    • Moderate
    • High
    • Very high
  • Overall, how is your energy level in the evening?
    • Very slow
    • Low
    • Moderate
    • High
    • Very high
Final Chronotype Table

Consider the effects of circadian misalignment: Circadian misalignment occurs when you work against your own chronotype. For example, maybe you’re an evening chronotype, but you work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., which makes it difficult to start in the morning and difficult to go to bed early knowing that you have to get up at an abnormal time for your job. chronotype.

Pause and reflect for at least 15-30 minutes knowing that there are 1400 minutes each day to ask and answer the following questions:

  • Is my work schedule aligned with my chronotype?
  • Do I engage in work tasks based on my energy peaks and troughs throughout the day?
  • How could my performance, health and well-being be improved by aligning my work schedule and work tasks with my chronotype?

After thinking about these three questions, you can come to one of three conclusions about the degree to which you suffer from circadian misalignment.

  • My work schedule and work tasks are aligned with my chronotype.
  • My work schedule and tasks somewhat match my chronotype.
  • My work schedule and work tasks do not match my chronotype.

Circadian misalignment is corrosive to your performance, health, and well-being. Imagine continuously paddling upstream for more than 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, 160 hours a month, and 2080 hours a year.

Design work schedule/work tasks suitable for chronotypes

Hopefully, the case has been shown that circadian misalignment disrupts high performance, health, and well-being. In contrast, synchronizing your work schedule and work tasks improves performance, health, and well-being. This synchronization of work schedules and work tasks with workforce chronotypes plays out at three levels: organizational, managerial/leadership, and individual.

Each of them will be described below with the aim of offering your practical advice on how to start syncing today.

Organizational level

At this level, leadership must commit to high performance, health, and well-being by modeling synchronization, incorporating synchronization into policies, and creating an enabling climate for chronotypes. Such a climate signals that workplace flexibility revolves around life commitments, family commitments, volunteer commitments, commuting considerations and health commitments, but also a commitment to synchronize work schedules and work tasks with your workforce chronotypes.

Management/leadership level

A key question that managers/leaders should ask the workers they supervise is: can I and will I trust my workers to manage their time and productivity in a way that allows them to choose the hours that sync with their biological clock? This may not be possible for all workers all the time due to business considerations. These considerations may include the job description and the client’s time preferences. In the 1950s, Douglas McGregor classified managers/leaders into Theory Y or Theory X. This categorization is applicable today as shown in the table below.

Supervisor Styles

When you read and reflect on Theory Y and Theory X, are you closer to Theory Y or Theory X? What about your immediate supervisor? What about the cultural climate of your organization?

Individual level

At this level, you may not be able to control your work schedule at all or to the extent that you want. If you are lucky enough to work in a supportive organization with a performance-oriented manager/leader and the nature of your job allows you to synchronize your work schedule and tasks, then get started today. On the other hand, if you are not so lucky due to organizational culture and/or beliefs about workers held by your immediate supervisor, try the following ways to influence your immediate supervisor.

  • Demonstrate how in the past you have met and/or exceeded expectations when you had greater flexibility if that was the case.
  • Ask for a “pilot” or “trial” for a clear period of time to set performance expectations upfront.
  • Look for allies at work where you can advocate for yourself and others.
  • Face the reality that the organizational culture and/or your immediate supervisors are not supportive of chronotypes.
  • Polish your CV and look for opportunities where you can synchronize your work schedule and tasks with your chronotype to improve your performance, health and well-being.

Today’s world of work and the emerging future of work are reshaping what work looks like and how it should be designed. The COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation represent two opportunities for organizational leaders and individual workers to pause, reflect, and rethink how and WHEN they work. Synchronize your work schedule and tasks with your chronotype to improve your performance, health and well-being.

William “Marty” Martin is the Director and Associate Professor of the MBA Program in Healthcare Management at DePaul University in Chicago, as well as a much sought-after presenter, trainer, and facilitator at organizations in the United States and abroad. His topics range from physician performance management to elements of teamwork.


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