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The Early Bird . . .

April 13, 2016

The Early Bird. . . gets the worm. AND, the Early Worm Gets Eaten. The worm that sleeps in survives. But if too many worms sleep in, the Bird will go hungry — or learn to sleep in as well!

What got me thinking about all this stuff was one of my favorite podcasts, Freakonomics, which did a two part series on the Economics of sleep. I found it fascinating how they concluded that we are running a very interesting study on the whole population. It’s called Time Zones. They figured out that the hour difference between the eastern and western side of a time zone could provide some interesting data. I won’t go into the details, you can find the podcast here. It’s interesting and I encourage you to listen when you can.

What I believe we will find interesting is that humans do have a genetically defined propensity to be either a Morning Person or a Night Owl. AND many studies show that without the correct amount of sleep, we humans are pretty low performance animals. With enough sleep deprivation, we get to be downright dangerous in the mistake department. Here’s a quote from the transcript of the second part:

GIBSON: So beginning about 10 or 15 years ago, we started to see experiments in medical school where they would subject people to levels of sleep that are closer to real-world sleep deprivation – six hours a night, maybe four hours a night for periods from 7-21 days, 1-3 weeks. And they found very, very large effects on task performance, on these lab type of tasks.
DINGES: Right away you see the cognitive effects.

For business owners, leaders and managers the takeaway from these studies is that it makes a lot of sense to have flexible hours for our employees. Rested employees are better performers, will likely be more engaged and the workplace environment will be more pleasant for everyone.

It seems that people can shift their internal clocks a bit, but too much of a shift won’t work (all puns intended). So the question becomes one of balance. Of course we want people to be productive and happy. We also have to cover our customer/client needs. Workloads do need to be planned so flexibility can only go so far.

Do you allow flexible work hours for your employees? If so, how flexible are they? If not, why not; and do you plan to do so in the future? Do you provide a quiet place for power naps?

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