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Early Bird vs. Night Owl: Who Gets the Worm?


Working late again tonight? You might want to reconsider. A new study shows that being a night owl could be the reason why you struggle to find balance in life.


(Photo Credit: t.abroudj/Flickr)

Wrike, a project management software company, conducted a study on nearly 2,000 working adults that examined the attributes and affects of feeling overworked. The study found the 87 percent of respondents feel overworked, but 38 percent of those respondents also feel “absolutely satisfied” with their work-life balance.

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It turns out that the positions held by the “overworked” employees play a huge factor in the level of work-life balance they experience. Business owners rank the lowest in work-life satisfaction (29 percent), with team members ranking the highest (50.8 percent). Executives, managers, and freelancers came in around the 35-40 percent range.

It’s quite possible that “team members” have more balance in their lives due to the fact that they have fewer demands as a business owner and, on average, work fewer hours consistently. The Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index found that “[t]oday’s small business owner works an average of 52 hours per week, with 57 percent working at least six days a week, and more than 20 percent working all seven.” It’s no surprise, then, that business owners have less work-life satisfaction than “team members” who work typical eight-hour shifts five days a week.

“Feeling overworked is a psychological state that has the potential to affect attitudes, behavior, social relationships, and health both on and off the job,” according to a recent Families and Work Institute study. The data from the study suggested that, despite the fact that men tend to hold more jobs that lead to feeling “overworked,” women actually feel more overworked than men due to too much multitasking and frequent interruptions while working. This feeling of being more overworked than men could be a result of the demands at home (e.g. household chores and raising children) that women tend to take on in addition to their regular work responsibilities.

Are you wondering when the most productive times during the day are? Sixty-four percent of the respondents from the Wrike study reported highest productivity levels between the four-hour span of 8 a.m. and noon — productivity plummets drastically to the 13.4 to 5.5 percent range in the hours thereafter. Therefore, it’s wise to work on your priority deliverables before lunch, otherwise you may fall victim to a work slump after lunch.

And if you think “burning the midnight oil” is a great way get more hours in, you might want to consider the downside of working late at night. The Wrike study infographic indicates that only 10 percent of “early birds” reported feeling stressed and overworked, versus 27 percent of “night owls.” During the day, your body is exposed to the sunlight, causing it to create vitamin D, which enhances blood flow to the brain, thus encouraging better concentration and productivity. Looks like the early bird get the worm, after all.

Something as little as going to bed earlier or getting more sunlight during the day could help prevent you from working yourself into a perpetual stupor and feeling overloaded at work. 

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think night owls are actually less productive than early birds? Share your thoughts with our community on Twitter or in the comments section below. 

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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