Remote work created a cult of driven workers who wake up at 8:59 a.m.


I’m up in 30 seconds and, albeit horizontally, in Slack, opening emails and getting my bearings for my workday, which formally starts at 9. A break in the action comes maybe 30 minutes later, so I get up from the bed, brush my teeth and start looking like a civilized person.

Arguably an improvement. At my last job, my alarm went off nine minutes before a daily on-camera brainstorm at 9:30am that required me to prepare notes. A friend recently took issue with my tendency to sleep until minutes before the workday starts, rattled by the fact that the first thing my brain registers each morning is an influx of business chatter and a cacophony of Slack pings.

“Don’t you sit down first or look out the window?” she asked her, looking at me a little scared.

Nope! I want every last millisecond of sleep I can get, and there’s no part of a wonderful sun-kissed morning routine I’d put before an extra 40 minutes of my head on the pillow. It may sound unprofessional, but if you’re programmed to be a morning person, there’s nothing to be gained by trying to fight nature.

Our inclinations vary widely as humans, even though we all share a 24-hour sleep-wake cycle, Chris Barnes, a management professor at the University of Washington who studies the relationship between sleep and work, tells me. Nonetheless, the world is made for the morning larks, leaving the night owls to play an endless game of catch-up.

“We think of [being a night owl] just as a preference, but it’s biological, partly encoded in our genetics,” says Barnes. “You can work against it, but you’re fighting uphill, and Mother Nature tends to win that.”

The worst case scenario is chronic sleep deprivation, which Barnes says undermines “an entire ecology of outcomes in the workplace.” When workers don’t sleep well, their engagement and job satisfaction plummet, they’re less charismatic, more abusive as supervisors, and more likely to engage in unethical behavior, she explains.

The dozens of like-minded sleepers I found for this article seem to know this to be the case, from a school teacher who has perfected a 15-minute morning routine to a prosperous media consultant who never takes off her pajamas.

These consummate workers are a far cry from the stereotype of a successful CEO, rumored to wake up before dawn to check emails on the treadmill and meditate before arriving at the office two hours before their direct reports. But remote work has shattered entrenched assumptions about propriety and professionalism, blurring the lines between work and life. It has created a cult of 8:59am professionals who prove that the early bird doesn’t always get the worm.

Morning larks don’t always run the show

Whoever said that waking up at dawn was the key to success was wrong. Just ask Vivian Tu, a former Wall Street stockbroker who built her media brand, your rich best friendin a 7-figure business during the pandemic without waking up before 9 am

“It is crazy to say that people who wake up earlier are morally or physically better; it doesn’t matter what time you finish things,” Tu, 28, tells me. “The mentality that all millionaires are cut from this [early bird] the fabric is so silly. I run my business, I’m my own boss, and I employ a team of people who know not to text me before 9 am because I’m not awake, and that’s okay.”

As a sleep expert, Barnes hates the “getting up early makes a man healthy, rich, and wise” adage that he still sees shared frequently among LinkedIn influencers, CEOs, and startup executives waxing poetic about their elaborate “5 to 9 before your 9 to 5”. He says they are playing into the false impression that early morning work is fundamentally better. He doesn’t buy it.

“Either they’re being a bit fictional in their description of their workday, or they’ve actually changed their lifestyle to match a stereotype, because they know perceptions matter,” he says. “And if they can give that image, that has positive implications for companies. Some may be night owls forcing themselves against their circadian process to convince others that they are doing what they are supposed to do.”

Barnes found that bosses believe employees who flex to work at night are less conscientious and focused than those who flex in the morning. Those perceptions can affect your performance reviews, especially if the boss himself is a morning person.

The popular convention that early risers are harder, more motivated workers doesn’t make sense to Amanda Pensak, a 33-year-old marketing campaign manager at a technology company. “My success at work is based on me, not the rules,” she says, explaining that she prepares for her morning calls at night so she can sleep until the last minute, which has been critical to finding balance. “I wouldn’t be successful if I had to wake up several hours before logging in [to work].”

Remote work has been a boon for night owls

Being awake and immediately ready to go is how Pensak’s brain has been wired since he was in high school. “I think [later starts] they are becoming more acceptable,” she says. “I don’t think managers care much about the exact time you log on; They care that you do your job.”

With the number of remote workers tripling to 17.9%, the ability to work from home has helped drive this mindset shift. It’s been a blessing for people like Pensak, who no longer have to fight their body’s circadian rhythm when their desk is only a few feet from their bed and can now free themselves from the pressure of being stereotyped as successful early risers.

While the dramatic cultural shift often negatively blurred the line between personal time and time on the clock, the elimination of the commute also saved millions of dollars and hours spent waking up, beautifying, and rushing to the train station. .

Ruth Kraft, a law firm partner and former judge, is thrilled that Zoom has replaced many in-person meetings, allowing her to sleep until the last possible minute. She is a far cry from the pre-pandemic days when she would leave her Long Island home at 7:30 a.m. for a 10:00 a.m. court date in the city.

She even decided not to work for a company in Manhattan to avoid the long commute, choosing one just 15 minutes away. On days when she works remotely, “I can get up at 8:45 am and be down the hall at my desk by 8:47 am,” she says. “I’m spending my time doing real productive work.”

It also helps ease the stress that comes with working in the law, adds Kraft. “As long as you’re ready, at the gun at 9 a.m., no matter how you get there, you should be perfectly fine,” she says. “In terms of getting the work done, writing the contracts, negotiating, there’s no reason to get up too early if that’s not your rhythm.”

There’s no one job window that’s best for everyone, says Barnes, “but we have to be willing to move beyond certain stereotypes of what a good employee looks like and look more at the science.”

Barnes urges bosses to respect everyone’s schedules; he is a strong advocate of asynchronous work whenever possible. His best advice is to reprioritize sleep. “You’re a better employee, spouse and friend, and better yourself,” he says. “Everything gets better when you get the sleep you need.”

You don’t have to tell me twice. Unless you tell me by 8:50 am, in which case I’ll have to call you back.

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