Can larks and owls ever get along at work?
Updated: Mar 29, 2021
It’s just after nine am, you’ve been at your desk for at least an hour getting sh!t done when your colleague rolls in bleary eyed giving off a very distinct ‘don’t talk to me until I’ve had at least two cups of coffee’ vibe. You need something from them but you know you’ll get nowhere unless you settle in.
Alternatively, it’s after five and you’ve hit your stride and you’re killing it. You need something from your morning bird colleague but their eyes are glazed over and they’re already packing up their desk. Can larks and owls ever get along?
Daniel H. Pink, the author of “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing,” groups people into three types: morning “larks,” “third birds,” and night “owls.” You probably already know which of these chronotypes you are but if you’re not quite sure you can take this simple (and scientific) Automated Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire
According to Pink every day we go through three stages:
Peak: our mood rises in the morning
Trough: our mood declines in the early to mid-afternoon
Recovery: our mood boosts back up in the early evening
If you’re a lark you go through it in the above order, but an Owl starts at Recovery and works backwards through to Peak.
Knowing when you hit your stages is super useful in helping plan your day. Behaviourists say that the best time to do admin work, or those boring repetitive tasks we hate, is in your Trough. These are things you can get through without too much thinking as they don’t rely on you thinking creatively.
There’s also interesting insight that states that we may be more creative in our off hours. In a 2011 study by psychologists Mareike Wieth and Rose Zacks they discovered that test participants were better at analytical problems, but had a higher success rate for insight problems at non-optimal times.
Working in an office environment where we rely on other people it’s useful to not only understand our own rhythms but also others’ and especially those we manage. If you schedule an early morning meeting but your team is mostly Owls then you’re not going to get the best out of them, equally needing precision focus from Larks at the end of the day will be equally unproductive. Being respectful of each other’s natural rhythms only helps the team get along, and work more productively together.