How many jobs today really require working 9-5? I mean, really require it, as in the work must be done during "regular business hours"? Versus requiring those hours to work simply because a lot of other companies do work during "regular business hours" so you have to do it because everyone else is doing it?
Turns out that, shocking none of us late-risers, students whose class schedules run counter to their Circadian rhythms perform less well in those classes than those who are able to match up their peak times with their classes.
Of course, in that same study, night owls are hit doubly hard, such that their rhythms are so thrown off by their class schedule that they perform sub-optimally regardless of time of day.
This "social jet-lag", as the study calls it, impacted more than half of all students studied (and it's noted that this is one of the biggest, most thorough studies of the phenomenon to date).
As someone who started their own business in part because I'm completely useless before about noon on most days, I find these results gratifying, but they create a set of questions that our modern business environment doesn't have any good answers for.
I mean, to some degree, the answers should be (and are) obvious. If you have a job that doesn't need to be performed between the hours of 9-5, and you want to hire someone whose peak hours are 1:00pm to 9:00pm, or whatever, you should just hire them and let them work those hours, right?
It's weirdly simple, but organizations have proven stubbornly resistant. Even global companies, which have people working somewhere in the world at all hours of the day, tend to default to the "professional" Standard Business Hours for their time zone.
Some of this has to do with staffing. If you're a bank teller and a night owl, it would be kickass if your working later meant the bank was open later for customers, right? But that probably means you'd also need a night-owl security guard, and a night-owl general supervisor, and whoever else.
And a lot of this is the perception that a stable, full-time 9-5 job is a mainstay of the middle class. The entire world (well, in the US) is built around those hours, so not only is your job 9-5, but so is your bank, your bookstore, your game store... Plus, if you have kids, they're in school during "business hours," if you're middle-class your spouse probably works 9-5 and you working 3-11 would mean you never get time together...
But, as you might well be thinking, lots of stuff isn't 9-5 anymore. You can get a food at all times of the night in a lot of places (especially big cities). Grocery stores are often open 24 hours. Bank hours have greatly expanded in the past 10 years or so.
If Jack in the Box can find people interested in working the graveyard shift, maybe every business could. Hours don't need to be inconsistent (as they often are in workplaces with graveyard shifts) to be matched to individual Circadian rhythms. But ultimately, it would serve both businesses and workers well if we could figure out a way to build workplaces for all people. We have 24 hour stores, a 24 news cycle, and cities that never sleep. We're basically stuck in a recursive loop; we do it this way because that's how it's always been done, and being among the first to change over means fighting the current in a way that doesn't make short-term business sense.
There would be kinks to work out (just as there are still kinks to figuring out how to best run fully remote workplaces), but at some point someone is gonna nab a big competitive advantage. Software companies basically already do this by acknowledging that coders work all hours of the day (though they typically get there by overworking them) and might not be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the 9am meeting. But we should be trying to figure this out not because it pads our bottom lines, but because it would make work genuinley better for the people who have to do it.