The 9-5 work schedule has been the go-to formula for decades, but new insights have revealed that a mid-morning start can lead to better productivity and better quality of life.
Some employees have a tendency to roll into the office a few hours after everyone else, much to the chagrin of their co-workers. Even if they’re not technically late, their lack of punctuality can be interpreted as a poor work ethic. This interpretation isn’t always accurate. In fact, those employees who show up mid-morning might actually be the most productive.
Here are the reasons why getting to work mid-morning is better than going first thing in the morning.
What is the best time to wake up for productivity?
There is a growing body of evidence that the best time to wake up for productivity is between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. because our bodies need time to wake up. Everyone goes through a transition period between waking up and reaching peak cognitive functioning, which is a key part of our circadian rhythm.
What exactly is a circadian rhythm? This process affects all living things, including plants and microorganisms. Every being follows a 24-hour biological clock that causes physical, mental and behavioral changes. The Earth’s natural light-dark cycle is the biggest contributor, but many other environmental factors can come into play — including your work schedule.
Your circadian rhythm can adapt to new environments provided that you give your body enough rest. If you fail to get enough sleep, your energy levels will remain out of sync and your productivity will never reach its full potential. You must also give your body time to wake up after regaining consciousness from a deep sleep.
Waking up at 6:00 a.m. and going to work immediately afterward doesn’t give your body enough time to regain its alertness. Melatonin secretion only stops at around 7:30 a.m., which explains why most people feel groggy during the first few hours of the workday. They’re still in that transition period between deep sleep and complete wakefulness.
Most people with the typical nine-to-five workday sleep between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. If you follow this sleep schedule, here’s a general overview of how your circadian rhythm impacts your productivity throughout the day:
- 7:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m.: Your ability to concentrate is lower than usual early in the morning because your circadian rhythm reaches its lowest point at this time of the day.
- 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.: Attention and concentration reach their peak at mid-morning and remain at high levels into the afternoon, making this timeframe the most productive part of the day.
- 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.: Your cognitive functioning declines after eating lunch, partly because the food makes you sluggish and partly because your energy levels experience a natural drop.
- 4:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.: After overcoming this lethargic period in the mid-afternoon, your attention span improves in the late afternoon and evening. Your coordination, reaction time and even your physical strength reach their daily peak.
- 10:00 p.m.-4:00 a.m.: Finally, your body starts secreting melatonin again and your brain activity slows down in preparation for sleep. This timeframe is the largest because it can take several hours for your body to enter deep rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep.
- 4:00 a.m.-7:00 a.m.: Your cognitive functioning is lowest at around dawn when you’re still in REM sleep or coming out of a deep slumber.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with waking up at 7:00 a.m. or even earlier if you prefer getting an early start. In fact, starting your day right around sunrise perfectly aligns with Earth’s light-dark cycle and stabilizes your circadian rhythm. The problem arises when you go to work immediately afterward while you’re still drowsy and uncoordinated.
Instead of drinking two cups of coffee and rushing out the door, it’s better to give yourself a few hours to reach complete wakefulness.
Here are the biggest reasons why getting to work mid-morning is better than your current nine-to-five schedule.
Improved job performance
Imagine if you showed up to work every day feeling energized instead of exhausted. You could tackle your job responsibilities with great attention to detail and problem-solving skills. Your interactions with co-workers would be more constructive. If you work in customer service, your conversations with customers would also be more pleasant.
Many companies have witnessed these improvements in job performance firsthand — especially companies with hybrid and remote workers. As a result, the nine-to-five workday is becoming obsolete and work schedules are much more flexible. Instead of rolling out of bed and starting work right away, people can start work on their own terms.
Starting your workday at around the 10:00 a.m. time slot is ideal, but you can only experience better job performance if you’re getting enough sleep. Fortunately, changing your work schedule should lead to better sleep quality.
Better sleep quality
Getting to work mid-morning is better than starting earlier because it supports a more consistent and restful sleep schedule. As previously mentioned, it can take several hours for your body to enter REM sleep. If you only enter REM sleep in the middle of the night and wake up at 7:00 a.m., you’ve only gotten a few hours of beneficial sleep.
Millions of adults have this problem every day, causing one in three people to suffer from sleep deprivation. When you go to work a little later, you can give your body two or three extra hours of quality sleep. Every extra hour makes a huge positive impact on your cognitive functioning and physical strength.
A work schedule that aligns with your circadian rhythm allows you to manage your time and energy much more efficiently. A mid-morning start helps with time management because you can complete more tasks in that 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. window of productivity. Task consolidation frees up more time for your other obligations, and even better, your hobbies.
For example, you could work out early in the morning to avoid the hottest times of day in the late afternoon when people typically exercise. You could spend more time on self-care routines, work on personal projects or catch up with old friends. With a mid-morning start, every day gives you a few extra hours of freedom to pursue a better work-life balance.
You will also become more in tune with your fluctuating energy levels, allowing you to tackle high-priority tasks at the most opportune times. If you have a big project due tomorrow, you know that you can get it done within that 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. timeframe of peak concentration. You can also create protected time slots in your schedule to recharge and regroup.
Lower stress levels
What happens when you combine job productivity with great sleep and a better work/life balance? Lower stress levels, of course. Going to work when you’re not mentally or physically prepared is a huge stressor in your daily life. You might have the knowledge and skills for the job, but they don’t mean anything if your well-being isn’t up to par.
Getting to work mid-morning helps you create a calm and focused mindset for the day ahead. Your responsibilities won’t seem so difficult when you’re well-rested and your cognitive abilities are at 100%. If you’re currently going to work too early, reducing workplace burnout is one of the key steps you must take to achieve mental peace.
How can I change my work schedule?
If starting work mid-morning sounds appealing to you, then it’s time to discuss the subject with your employer. To show that you’re serious about a schedule change, you should make a detailed overview of the request and explain how it would improve your productivity. Be sure to answer the questions how, when, where and why.
Once you demonstrate that a schedule change would benefit all parties involved, your employer will feel more comfortable approving your request. This decision could change your career and your life, so don’t wait another day!
Today's post is a guest post from Beth Rush.
Beth Rush is the Managing Editor at Body+Mind. She is a well-respected writer in the personal wellness space and shares knowledge on various topics related to mental health, self-improvement, and holistic health. In her spare time, Beth enjoys cooking and trying out new fitness trends. Connect with her on Twitter @bodymindmag.