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Should understanding the concept of chronobiology and the physiological differences in people’s energy levels be the future of recruitment?

Anita Saboo, CEO of Ubitech Digital in Dubai, believes that chronotypes can be a huge determinant in hiring and defining work hours to suit business needs.

“Unfortunately, awareness about chronotypes or the physiological differences in people’s energy levels at different hours, is low,” said Saboo.

 What is reasonable to expect is to have overlapping hours like 11am to 3pm when both chronotypes [of employees]have some hours of their peak energy levels.”

 - Anita Saboo | CEO, Ubitech Digital, Dubai 

She explained that while there isn’t a high percentage of companies in this part of the world that are conscious of chronobiology, there is at the same time an increasing number of companies that are adopting flexible work hours according to employees’ preferences.

There are also companies that have multiple shifts with overlapping hours in the daytime and evening-night time.

“What is reasonable to expect is to have overlapping hours like 11am to 3pm when both chronotypes have some hours of their peak energy levels. A strong cup of coffee in the morning for the owl and a light lunch for the early bird can work wonders to boost energy,” explained Saboo.

She pointed out that rostering employees based on their circadian rhythm to maximise productivity while taking the body clock into consideration goes a long way in keeping employees happy.

There are two sides to a picture

With globalisation, working with anyone at any given time is a key requirement for businesses to thrive.

“With the advancement in technology, how much can we really stick to the 9 to 5 work hours?” said Saboo.

But there is also the other side of the story.

Many companies are reluctant to look into introducing flexi hours simply due to the extra cost needed to keep offices open beyond working hours such as electricity, house-keeping, and security.

There are also other considerations.

“Keeping the office open could also increase the risk and liability when employees are left in an unsupervised environment.

Making evening people work beyond close of business hours makes the company susceptible to complications, negativity and detrimental to the levels of employee engagement if this is not managed efficiently,” said Saboo.

Flexi hours also depend on the nature of a job, and whether the work can be performed independently or requires teamwork.

“Owls can be a huge advantage in companies which are required to operate round the clock,” said Saboo.

Some companies allow flexible hours as long as main business hours are covered, she said. The main factor such companies take into consideration about chronotypes is to allow employees to perform their best without impacting business priorities, she said.

“More and more companies manage their employees through key performance indicators than the number of hours they put in or the location they operate from, which is the ideal thing to do,” she added.

However, Saboo believes bio-chemistry and the concept of chronotypes still remain secondary to motivation and work ethics.

“Motivation makes all the difference in an employee’s performance and commitment. An employee who is dedicated to the organisation and is doing his job with all honesty and integrity doesn’t worry about the time he is required to clock in,” said Saboo.

She pointed out that when ethics are in place, it replaces any bio-chemical hindrance.

“What matters is the completion of work with the desired quality within the set timeline. Aligning yourself to the required work hours is easy if the desire to achieve is high,” added Saboo.

Odd working hours may become ineffective

Nuno Gomes, Career Business Leader MENAT said most factors pushing companies to adopt flexi-work policies and arrangements have to do with lifestyle, family requirements, personal circumstances, not chronotype considerations.

“Surely, some companies allow for consideration to individuals’ personal preferences, but that doesn’t really address the chronotype factor,” he said.

There are two main obstacles to making companies seriously consider chronotypes at the workplace. First, most jobs require interaction with other people including colleagues, clients and vendors, which is not possible at all hours of the day.

“There’s a risk that individuals who prefer “odd” working hours may actually become ineffective despite potentially being more productive,” Gomes said.

Second, managers’ capabilities are not aligned with this “new” way of working, which have been built on observation and command rather than objective and performance based, he said.

“It tends to be difficult for managers to understand and assess what employees are doing and the quality of that work.

“Managerial capability needs to evolve accordingly, including the adoption of technology and change in behaviours that are necessary to create a different work environment,” added Gomes.