New research from from the Institute of Medical Psychology at Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich has discovered that employers should allow staff to have a lie in if it suits their body clock. They found reorganising the day to let people work according to their individual 'chronotype', will make them happier and healthier.
Every person has a slightly different body clock or chronotype, putting them each on a spectrum between the 'morning lark' who likes to be up at dawn, and the night owl who prefers to work into the evening. But four out of every five people is working against their individual body clock, scientists suggest - forced by the dictates of society and employment to be active when they should be asleep.
This problem, which biologists call 'social jetlag', has been linked to diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cancer. In an experiment in a German steel factory, scientists have demonstrated that allowing people to adjust their work pattern to suit their individual preferences results in a much happier, healthier workforce.
The researchers, from the Institute of Medical Psychology at Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich, first assessed the chronotypes of 114 steel workers, examining their sleeping patterns and calculating their average sleep deficit. Each worker was put into an early, late, or intermediate group, and assigned a shift pattern to suit their body clock.
The biologists then monitored their sleep, stress levels, happiness and general wellbeing over five months. The results, published in the journal Current Biology, showed an improvement in all areas.
Professor Till Roenneberg, who led the study, said: 'A simple re-organisation of shifts according to chronotype allowed workers to sleep more on workday nights. 'As a consequence, they were also able to sleep less on their free days due to a decreased need for compensating an accumulating sleep loss. This is a double-win situation."
The research comes after Professor Vincent Walsh, an expert in brain research at University College London, proposed last year that that workers should be allowed an afternoon nap at work to boost productivity. 'It's only since the industrial revolution we have been obsessed with squeezing all our sleep into the night rather than having one or two sleeps through the day,' he said. The professor said a nap of between 30 and 90 minutes in the afternoon could help companies improve productivity.