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Your Workday Starts Too Early, Says Awesome Study


Do you feel a subtle pressure to get in to work early? It’s not in your head. Many companies create a culture that rewards long working hours. The problem, according to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, is that getting up with the roosters often means cutting down on time spent sleeping.


(Photo Credit: stephenshellard/Flickr)

The study, which was published in the journal Sleep, examined responses from 124,517 Americans who took the American Time Use Survey between the years 2003 and 2011. The annual survey is conducted via telephone interview by the U.S. Census Bureau, and asks respondents how they spent the hours between 4 a.m. the previous day and 4 a.m. on the day of the interview.

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“The evidence that time spent working was the most prominent sleep thief was overwhelming,” said lead author Dr. Mathias Basner, assistant professor of sleep and chronobiology in psychiatry, in a press release (via Inc). “Potential intervention strategies to decrease the prevalence of chronic sleep loss in the population include greater flexibility in morning work and class start times, reducing the prevalence of multiple jobs, and shortening morning and evening commute times.”

Lost sleep should matter to your employer, even if you’re a banker or work for Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. A sleep-deprived employee is not a productive employee. Lack of sleep is bad for your mental alertness, memory, and judgment, as well as your long-term health and happiness. It all adds up to getting less done, and less done well, and being a less loyal and committed employee in the process.

Of course, if it were up to you, you’d probably be sleeping in a little later already. To convince the boss to let you start your day later — or earlier, with an afternoon quitting time, or to let you work from home — you’ll have to show how a flexible schedule benefits the company:

1. Keep it professional.

There are plenty of health benefits to getting enough sleep, and many of them ultimately help the company keep costs down and productivity up, but if you lead with health, it sounds like you: a) can’t hack it, or b) are more concerned about yourself than the organization. The same goes for childcare issues or other personal concerns. These are perfectly valid reasons to need flextime, but using them will make it seem more like your boss is doing you a favor and less like you’re making a change that’s in the best interests of company.

2. Rely on data.

Could you get more done if you could work from home, or on a different schedule? Demonstrate that. Bonus points if you can put a dollar sign before the numbers you present. Money is always persuasive.

3. Pick your time carefully.

There’s a right time and a wrong time to float the idea of changing your workday around. Don’t ask when your team is on a deadline or when you’re stressed out or the boss is under pressure. A regular one-on-one meeting when things are relatively calm is the best choice for a productive discussion.

Tell Us What You Think

What time do you think work should start? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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