Moon designed by Lil Squid from the Noun Project

Moon designed by Lil Squid from the Noun Project

Trying to get the night owls to collaborate at 9 a.m. with the morning people can be, to put it mildly, a struggle. SY/Partners has been working on a new app to help teams find harmony, Teamworks, and through all the team data they’ve been gathering, they found that early risers butting heads with late-nighters to be one of the most common conflicts.

The team member who’s happily firing off at emails at 6 a.m. is a morning lark; the team member whose finest thinking happens post-9-to-5 is a night owl. Each person’s ideal working time is determined by biology, lifestyles, family obligations, etc. Problems arise when shared conventions aren’t established — for example, if an owl logs on mid-morning to finds he’s missed out on an early-bird decision-making email chain. Or a lark is rocked with a steady stream of incoming emails just as she’s powering down for the night.

The best solution is a simple one: team members need to be more considerate of each other.

  • Establish set working hours. When are people expected to be on call? Except for emergencies or other situations when it’s all-hands-on-deck, make it clear that team members are not expected to be fielding emails during off-hours.
  • Develop a shared language for communicating when the emails require answers. For example, a night owl firing off ideas after hours should write in the subject line: “Please review in the morning.”
  • If you’re a team member whose ideal work time falls outside the team’s norm (e.g. the majority is in by 8 a.m., but you like to go to the gym in the morning and start working at 10:30 a.m.), the burden is on you to demonstrate responsiveness. How can you avoid creating bottlenecks and frustrating team members waiting for your input? How can you show your dedication, so that your limited availability doesn’t look like a lack of care or commitment?

Approach this issue proactively by acknowledging it and making moves to work around it, instead of trying to force your night owls into early birds and vice versa, and your team will be much happier.

Read more common conflicts (and solutions) in Part I and Part II.

  • Kevin Brent REALTOR®

    I have been self-employed since 1996. This is something I deal with regularly. It can really work to your advantage. As the leader, try to delegate task accordingly. Then as needed (1-2 days a week) bring everyone together. Requiring 4-6 hours per day of overlapping time my help as well.

    If your is team happy and positive. It will result in higher productivity.

    Keep in mind. Your clients sleep habits vary as well. If they need something at 11pm. You are going to be the team that delivered.

  • Clarence

    This article doesn’t provide a solution, other than to suggest a more open, active communication plan. Night owls are still a minority who have to hew to the establishment’s circadian rhythms. As a biological night owl in a creative field, which you would think would be more forgiving and okay it is a tiny bit, I have spent over a decade being an underslept and often tardy colleague. The internal stress to adapt is immense, and every morning is a struggle.
    Why do my teams put up with my persistent late arrivals and dark circles? Because I offer something no one else in these offices has. Still, I feel stygmatized and sometimes undervalued because I don’t fit the circadian mold. How about the internet gets together and comes up with a solution that’s not just a back door exhortation to get night owls to shutup and deal with the status quo? I’ll be the first beta tester.

    • Sasha

      As a fellow not-a-morning-person-in-the-slightest, I feel your pain! Part of what they also suggested was also allowing flexible hours with some overlap in the middle of the day, so night owls and morning birds can work in their best circumstances — is that something that might be possible in your office?

  • BrennaAtKalypso

    I work in a global firm with teams who communicate and collaborate 24/7. Most of us work from satellite offices, remotely on an airplane, at a client location, or from a home office. As long as expectations are set and we provide visibility into our schedules with others, we can respect the differences in the time zones we work and accept the fact that not everyone is on a 9-5 routine. Global teamwork can sometimes present challenges to achieving deadlines, but with proper planning, coordination and flexibility we make it work. It also helps to give in once in a while to accommodate for someone else’s schedule and likewise they will return the favor to stay up a little later or log on a little earlier to be available during your hours.

    Frustrations and bottlenecks occur when individuals “disappear” and we have no idea where they are or when they are returning to their “desk.” Open communication and realistic expectations are key to offline/online working relationships.

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