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Give Night Owls Work Hours That Let Them Spread Their Wings

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I can't even imagine working at night. Anything I do after 8 p.m. had better not need strategic thought. But at 6 a.m. (or earlier), I can plow through creative, thoughtful, strategic work like an Olympic runner at a marathon.

Yup -- I'm a morning person. Even on weekends, sleeping in past 8 a.m. rarely happens.

woman office night
(Photo: Hero Images via Getty Images)

And then there's my friend Catherine. Catherine is a night owl. You and I do our best, most strategic, most creative work when we are rested. For Catherine, she's not at her "best" in the morning; her energy patterns -- her circadian rhythms -- are different than 80 to 90 per cent of us.

As a chronic morning person, I used to believe that night owls routinely went to bed too late and that if they changed some of their habits they could also enjoy getting to the office early. Now, as a time management trainer, I've seen over and over evidence that tells me night owls are only embracing their natural way. When I'm training there's usually at least one person on the team that says they do their best work at night.

Thankfully for Catherine and other night owls like her, work spaces are changing so night owls can better embrace their late-night energy spikes.

If someone can travel during off-peak hours it means they will be working when THEY are more productive.

As work environments change, businesses are becoming more accepting that people work on different schedules, whether employees want to because of family commitments or have to because they are night owls. Virtual companies that have employees throughout the country (or across the world) are becoming more and more common.

Benefits of embracing night owl employees

If you are an "in-the-office" company, see if you can give employees more flexibility. It's not a perfect solution for a night owl, but if someone can travel during off-peak hours it means they will be working when THEY are more productive.

It likely also means your employees are less stressed and will be happier because they spend less time sitting in traffic and more time doing the work they enjoy or being with their family/friends. Happy employees are more creative, more productive and will be more loyal to your organization and your values -- meaning better customer service and less time having to rehire, retrain, re-anything.

If you are a "virtual" company, it's likely you've already embraced the idea of hiring the best people vs. the best people living within 100 kilometres of your location. Your employees are likely in a different time zone. It's also likely you and your employees are happily experiencing a ROWE (results-only work environment) -- who cares when they do their work as long as they meet their timelines, budgets and work quality, right?

Your virtual employees can work when THEY are most productive. It also makes them happier. So what you have is a happy, productive employee who, again, will be more creative, more productive and will be more loyal to your organization and your values -- meaning better customer service and less time having to rehire, retrain, re-anything.

office worker night
(Photo: Grady Reese via Getty Images)

No matter what your company structure is like, leaders need to explore what is right for each member of their team... and to focus more on keeping their team collaborating and focused on the vision and goals vs. when or where they are doing their work.

When should night owls send email?

I get asked this more and more often when I deliver email etiquette training. Proper workplace etiquette has put more pressure on employers to leave employees alone during their time off. For most, this roughly means no contact from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.

If you are a night owl like Catherine, I recommend you use a delay-send feature for email so the email you write gets sent closer to 8 a.m. vs. 11 p.m., 2 a.m. or 4 a.m. Other than not disturbing your fellow co-workers, I believe this is especially important if you are emailing clients. Consider that a 1:30 a.m. email might give your client the negative opinion that you are out of control.

Conclusion

What is your circadian rhythm and work-life pattern? What are your most productive hours? More importantly, as a leader, when are your employees most productive? As workspaces change, it's important we enable our employees to be productive when people are productive. If you are a leader -- help your team find joy. You will be rewarded with loyal, hard-working, creative team members.

Our work and our work schedule should give us joy. Hopefully you can find a schedule to help you be the best person you can be and do your best work.

Happy communicating, mentoring, motivating, coaching... and training.

Click here to learn more about Bruce Mayhew Consulting. We facilitate courses including email etiquette, time management, leadership, generational differences and more.

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