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The Ideal Work Schedule

Posted by Insightlink on 02/05/15

A New Way to Get (More) Work Done

You can’t be at your best all day long…it’s not humanly possible to be amazing all day long because our energy ebbs and flows like the tides. This is why our ideal work schedule should not be imposed upon us but rather be a reflection of our own internal clocks, also known as our circadian process. In his article titled “ The Ideal Work Schedule as Detemined by Circadian Rhythms’’  Christopher M. Barnes explains  that each of us have a well-defined internal clock that controls our energy levels throughout the day. Each of us functions based on our own circadian rhythms, which tend to be common and regular and quite predictable. Jetlag is used as an illustration to explain how time changes can interfere with our circadian rhythm. Needless to say ’this natural and hardwired ebb and flow in our ability to feel alert or sleepy has important implications for how we schedule our work days’.

Here’s an excerpt from the original article that explains the importance of the Circadian rhythm:

break time
'Although managers expect their employees to be at their best at all hours of the workday, it’s an unrealistic expectation. Employees may want to be their best at all hours, but their natural circadian rhythms will not always align with this desire. On average, after the workday begins, employees take a few hours to reach their peak levels of alertness and energy — and that peak does not last long. Not long after lunch, those levels begin to decline, hitting a low at around 3pm. We often blame this on lunch, but in reality this is just a natural part of the circadian process. After the 3pm dip, alertness tends to increase again until hitting a second peak at approximately 6pm. Following this, alertness tends to then decline for the rest of the evening and throughout the early morning hours until hitting the very lowest point at approximately 3:30am. After hitting that all-time low, alertness tends to increase for the rest of the morning until hitting the first peak shortly after noon the next day.

Managers who want to maximize their employees’ performance should consider this circadian rhythm when setting assignments, deadlines, and expectations. This requires taking a realistic view of human energy regulation, and appreciating the fact that the same employee will be more effective at some times of the day than others. Similarly, employees should take their own circadian rhythms into account when planning their own day. The most important tasks should be conducted when people are at or near their peaks in alertness (within an hour or so of noon and 6pm). The least important tasks should be scheduled for times in which alertness is lower (very early in the morning, around 3pm, and late at night).

Naps can be a good way to regulate energy as well, providing some short-term recovery that can increase alertness. A large body of evidence links naps to increases in task performance. However, even tired and sleep-deprived employees may find it difficult to nap if they work against their circadian rhythms. Fortunately, there is a nice complementary fit; naps are best scheduled for the low point of alertness in the circadian rhythm. Thus, smart managers and employees will schedule naps around 3pm, when they are less useful for important tasks anyway, so that they will be even more alert later on during the natural high points in their circadian rhythm'.

This understanding of circadian rhythms lends itself to the importance of allowing employees to design their own workdays based on their own unique internal clocks. If we could all work at our own best times and, we committed to a schedule that capitalized on this self-knowledge, imagine how much more productive and satisfied we would be with our work. How wonderful it would be to end the day knowing that sense of accomplishment versus feeling time was lost. Giving your employees the opportunity to plan their day using this information is one of the key ways to show you care as an employer, which in turn will help employees feel more engaged at work. Think about ways to communicate this to your team and come up with a strategy to implement a new way of getting work done.

Original article here:


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Insightlink Communications are experts in employee survey design, data collection and analysis. Since 2001 we've helped companies of all sizes measure and improve their employee satisfaction and engagement.

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