A part of the beauty and excitement of working in an office environment is the diversity of ideas, habits, personality traits, strengths, and skills that each person brings to the team.
The best way to have not only a healthy, functioning office, but one filled with positive and empowering energy, is to embrace diversity. To do that, we first need to understand each other’s differences.
While the list of differences is endless, one I’ve always been interested in is morning vs evening people.
There are a lot of arguments thrown around about whether it’s better to be a morning or an evening person. But your natural sleep pattern doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with your personality, career drive or motivational type.
According to Lawrence Epstein and Steven Mardon, co-authors of “The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep,” there is a bell curve of when people feel most comfortable going to bed and waking up. They explain that “where these times fall is not a reflection on your character. Instead, it’s a nonjudgmental product of your circadian rhythm of sleep and wakefulness.”
Epstein and Mardon go on to explain that there are three general profiles of sleepers:
- Standard sleepers: The majority of people are standard sleepers, whose natural sleep/wake rhythm is to go to sleep between 10:30-11:30 p.m. and wake between 6:30 – 7:30 a.m.
- Larks: A smaller number of people have an inborn tendency to go to bed early – feeling comfortable going to bed between 9 and 10 p.m. and waking up between 5 and 6 a.m.
- Owls: On the other end of the bell curve are owls – people who have a natural desire to go to bed late (long after midnight), and sleep late into the morning.
I am very clearly a night owl (as evidence by the fact that I’m writing this blog at 11 p.m. on a Sunday night). Reading this book helped me embrace my natural sleep cycles without apology.
I do, however, have to remain within the parameters of our traditional workday – convinced during the Industrial Revolution and stubbornly digging its heels in ever since. The 9-to-5 is designed for the majority of people, the standard sleepers, who don’t have much trouble waking up to start work at 9 a.m.
With conversations about workplace wellness increasing every day, and technology enabling a departure from the traditional work day, I think it’s inevitable that one day everyone will be able to work when and wherever it makes sense to maximize personal and team productivity.
Like me, you’re probably well aware of where you land in the sleep pattern bell curve – especially if you’re a well-defined lark or owl.
If you’re not sure what your natural sleep pattern is, Epstein and Mardon suggest that the best way to determine where you fit is by paying attention to your sleep pattern during a vacation “after you’ve caught up on any lost sleep.”
Regardless of where you fit, I believe it’s irrelevant if you’re a standard sleeper, lark or owl. What’s important is that we don’t judge each other negatively for where we land on the bell curve, but find ways to make team dynamics work so that everyone feels positive.
The same principal can be applied to all the differences we bring to the office.
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