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When It Is Too Early To Go To Work

Employers should allow younger employees to start their day later because their biological clocks don't allow them to go to sleep early.

| BY Kent McDill

When flex time became a new trend in employment, allowing employees to start their work day at different times, it was designed to assist people trying to balance home life with work life, dealing with the needs of a family while maintaining a professional role as well.

Now researchers have determined that flex time should be based on the age of the employee. Simply put, younger employers stay up later at night, so they should be allowed to start their workday later in the morning.

Or early afternoon, perhaps.

Dr. Paul Kelley, a clinical research associate at the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at Oxford University, recently published a scientific paper noting that as humans grow older, our clocks change so that are biological wakeup time gets later. He says children around the age of 10 wake up naturally at about 6:30 p.m., and that gets later, to 8 a.m. for 16-year-old and 9 a.m. for 18-year-olds.

Kelley initially stated that this biological difference means college classes should start later in the morning to sync with students’ biological clocks.

Operating on a theory that the world gets started between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. in the United States, as well as in the United Kingdom, Kelley said that start time affects people differently based on their age.

According to Kelly, the sleep deprivation that occurs with an 8 a.m. start “between 14 (years old) and 24 it’s more than two hours. For [people aged between] 24 to about 30 or 35, it’s about an hour and a half. That can continue up until you’re about 55 when it’s in balance again. The 10-year-old and 55-year-old wake and sleep naturally at the same time.”

If, as often is the case, the employer or boss is in his or her 50s, they are likely to want to get to work at 9 a.m., and want their employees to do so as well. But that might not work for younger employees who simply stay up later to answer their biological clock.

Instead, Kelley suggested, start times should be staggered to get the most effectiveness out of employees of different ages.

The idea could have “many positive consequences,’’ Kelley said in an interview with The Guardian. “The positive side of this is people’s performance, mood and health will improve. It’s very uplifting in a way, because it is a solution that will make people less ill, and happier and better at what they do.”

Kelley was more emphatic about the dangers of early start times than he was about the positives.

“This is a huge society issue,’’ he said at the British Science Festival this year. “Staffs are usually sleep deprived. We have a sleep-deprived society. It is hugely damaging on the body’s systems because you are affecting physical emotional and performance systems in the body. Your liver and your heart have different patterns and you’re asking them to shift two or three hours. Everybody is suffering and they don’t have to.”

There are parts of the world where staggered starts are considered in order to ease other problems, namely traffic. Officials in the major cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates are considering issuing a decree for staggered starts throughout those cities in order to ease traffic congestion.

Similarly, the city of Austin, Texas, is creating three different start times for city employees – 7 a.m., 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. – in order to assist in improving traffic congestion in that growing community, and the city’s mayor has asked the larger employers in town to do the same.

About the Author

Kent McDill

Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.

In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.

McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.

McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy  Buffett and all things Disney.