The Importance of Flexible Work Hours

Public Domain. MaxPixel

Research has shown that disrupting one's natural 'morning lark' or 'night owl' tendency can result in unethical behavior at work.

Who doesn't love a flexible work schedule? Being able to make your own hours, come in when you're ready and leave when you're done, step out to attend a child's presentation at school, have a midday appointment, or even squeeze in a quick workout or nap as a guaranteed pick-me-up – flexibility greatly improves one's quality of life.

The benefits don't stop there, however. Research has shown that having flexible work hours actually make one a better person. How so? It's been found that disrupted sleep patterns – in the form of having to act outside of your normal inclination to be a morning 'lark' or a night 'owl' – can result in strange, unethical, and out-of-line behavior.

At a talk given at the Hay Festival in the United Kingdom on May 27, science journalist Linda Geddes said,

"If you don’t get enough sleep, research suggests you are more likely to engage with unethical and deviant behaviour, such as being mean, bullying your fellow employees or falsifying receipts. But it’s not just owls: the larks tend to behave more unethically in the evening, and owls in the morning. So ideally, you want to introduce flexible working."

Another study, cited in the Guardian, found that getting less than six hours of sleep per night resulted in similarly 'deviant' behavior, "with researchers identifying a link between sleep deprivation and glucose levels in the cerebral cortex, the brain region responsible for self-control."

Geddes went on to describe Britons' relationship with light as 'perverted' – getting far too little of it during the day (90 percent of time is spent indoors, on average) and far too much of it at night, from artificial sources. Whenever people are exposed to more sunlight in the morning hours, they fall asleep faster than those who don't get outside at all.

Employers would be wise to allow their employees to start whenever they feel ready – whether it's at the crack of dawn or at 11 a.m., and to allow breaks or pauses in the day as needed – because that would mean better productivity, performance, and behavior.

This shift is already happening, with the New York Times recently reporting that 27 percent of U.S. employers now offer the flexibility to work outside normal business hours, up from 22 percent in 2014; and 68 percent allow telecommuting as needed (up from 54 percent in 2014). With the national unemployment rate at its lowest in 50 years, employers are having to become more competitive in what they offer workers, and flex-hours seem like a no-brainer, highly beneficial to all.