Talent & Tech Asia Summit 2024
Productivity at work: Are you a night owl or an early bird?

Productivity at work: Are you a night owl or an early bird?

When it comes to productivity, timing really matters – the majority of people surveyed (34%) say they are most productive in the early morning hours, between 6-9am.

Put your right hand up if you feel most productive working early in the morning (6-9am). Put your left hand up if you think the late hours of the night (9pm-12am) work better for you to get your best work done. 

Which hand did you find yourself (mentally) raising? If it was your right hand, you would resonate with 34% of about 1,500 people recently surveyed in the US, who indicated the hours of 6-9am as their most productive hours.

On the other hand (no pun intended), those who prefer to work between 9pm-12am would resonate with just 1% of the survey respondents.

Interestingly, the percentage of people who indicated their productive hours decreased as the timings got later in the day:

Hours when people feel most productive to work

  • Early morning (6-9am): 34%
  • Late morning (9am-12pm): 31%
  • Early afternoon: (12pm-3pm): 20%
  • Late afternoon (3pm-6pm): 9%
  • Evening (6pm-9pm): 5%
  • Night (9pm-12am): 1%

The indications were a mix when respondents were asked about their least productive hours:

  • Early morning (6-9am): 16%
  • Late morning (9am-12pm): 22%
  • Early afternoon: (12pm-3pm): 28%
  • Late afternoon (3pm-6pm): 15%
  • Evening (6pm-9pm): 8%
  • Night (9pm-12am): 1%

Apart from the above, the respondents were also asked about their preferred working hours, and how they felt about working outside of these hours. To this, 55% said they preferred the standard working day (9am-5pm), while a minority (4%) preferred working in the morning, taking a break, and finishing in the afternoon.

In between, 24% said they would prefer to start early in the morning and end in the early afternoon, and 17% said they would start later in the morning and end later in the afternoon.

Thoughts on working during non-preferred hours

  • 'I can manage, but my productivity is lower': 42%
  • 'I can adapt and perform well regardless of the time': 35%
  • 'I find it difficult, and my productivity is much lower': '23%

Keeping these in mind, as a whole, close to six in 10 (59%) respondents identified themselves as 'early birds', while four in 10 (25%) identified themselves as 'night owls'. 

As can be seen further above, the 16% who identify as neither early birds nor night owls highlight the presence of a subgroup that might have more flexible or irregular sleep-wake patterns. Zooming in, the late afternoon, evening, and night hours seem to be the primary productivity killers for 34% of participants.

The impact of working hours on work outcomes

With different groups of people feeling productive at different times of the day, one thing was clear in the survey — whether people work the hours that correspond to their needs can significantly impact their job satisfaction, performance, and productivity. 

When asked if they were currently working outside their preferred hours, respondents said:

  • 'Yes, and it has a moderately negative impact on my job satisfaction' – 42%
  • 'Yes, and it has a very negative impact on my job satisfaction' – 40%
  • 'Yes, but it has no impact on my job satisfaction' – 12%
  • 'No, I am currently working within my preferred hours' – 6%

While this was so, 49% of the overall respondents said they had discussed the idea of flexibility (or lack thereof) with their supervisors, who were supportive and accommodating. A further 42% also took up such a conversation but did not receive any support; and 7% have not talked to their supervisors about it.

Would people be willing to make sacrifices to work during their preferred hours?

The answer is yes for about 88%, with half saying they would be willing to make significant sacrifices, and the other half saying they would make minor sacrifices if required.

  • Family life: 42%
  • Free time: 37%
  • Personal values: 35%
  • Hobbies: 34%
  • Relationship/marriage: 30%
  • Current career: 30%
  • Mental health: 28%
  • Nothing: 11%

It was also noted:


Read the full survey analysis here.

Lead photo: Myperfectresume

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

Free newsletter

Get the daily lowdown on Asia's top Human Resources stories.

We break down the big and messy topics of the day so you're updated on the most important developments in Asia's Human Resources development – for free.

subscribe now open in new window