Researchers say starting later could be better for our health, but most bosses still want their employees to clock in on the early side
Toss out your alarm, people.
President Donald Trump reportedly doesn’t start his official workday until around 11 a.m. when he sits down with Chief of Staff John Kelly, according to Axios, which claims to have viewed copies of his private schedule. Before that, he engages in what he reportedly calls “Executive Time,” in which he watches TV, makes some calls, and tweets.
“President Trump is starting his official day much later than he did in the early days of his presidency, often around 11 a.m., and holding far fewer meetings,” Axios reports.
This tradition differs significantly from Trump’s predecessors, Axios says. Former President Barack Obama reportedly moseyed his way over to the Oval Office to start the business of running the country between 9 and 10 a.m., after a morning workout. Former President George W. Bush arrived even earlier, usually at 6:45 a.m.
Even for many of the rest of us, workday start times have gotten more flexible. Data from CareerBuilder in 2016 found that 59% of Americans “believe the traditional 9-to-5 work day is a thing of the past.”
But what does science have to say about this? Dr. Paul Kelley of Oxford University’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute in the UK is a champion for pushing the start of the workday back to 10 a.m., saying that extra hour can make a big difference in the productivity and alertness of employees. “This is a huge society issue,” Kelley told participants of the British Science Festival in 2015.
“The circadian [sleep] rhythms of adults are completely out of synch with normal 9-to-5 hours, which poses a ‘serious threat’ to performance, mood, and mental health,” before the age of 55, Kelley told the Telegraph. (After age 55, a 9 a.m. start time does make sense for our circadian rhythms, he added.)
The resulting exhaustion from a pre-10 a.m. start time can serve as detriment to “performance, attention, [and] long-term memory,” as well as weight gain, lessened immunity, and mental health issues, the Telegraph says.
Dr. Steven Feinsilver, director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, agrees with Kelley’s view on a broad level, but cautions that it would be irresponsible to assume that pushing back start times would necessarily benefit every member of the workforce.
“Everyone has his or her preferred time to wake up, but it is also true that it depends a little about your age… I think it would be wrong to make a generalization.”
He added that research has shown that younger workers — particularly millennials in their 20s — could prosper with added time to sleep in the mornings, though older workers might prefer to start earlier instead. “In general 20-year-old’s should probably start work at 10 or noon, but 70-year-old’s [or] older people [should probably start] early, maybe 7 or 8.”
“Getting enough sleep is important for everything,” Feinsilver explained. “Sleep deprivation has been associated with changes in weight, changes in sugar metabolism — [which] makes diabetes worse — and more obviously, changes in performance,” while on the job, he said.
But don’t take this to mean you should start rolling in a 10 a.m. just yet. A 2014 report from the Journal of Applied Psychology found that managers tend to look better upon employees who showed up at the office earlier rather than later.
“Even when accounting for total work hours, objective job performance, and employees’ self-ratings of conscientiousness, we find that a later start time leads supervisors to perceive employees as less conscientious,” the researchers wrote.
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