February 24, 2015 by Blog, QA

Rise and Shine!

Q: My boss expects me to be at work on time at 8:30 in the morning. This is impossible! I’m a night owl. Why can’t I just work when I want? As long as I produce, what difference does it make when I’m there?

A: Wake up—earlier and to the real world. You may be a night owl who likes to stay up all night but much of the working world operates somewhere in the vicinity of nine-to-five (give or take a hour or so either way). The world revolves around companies and organizations starting on time. Meetings are set based on the expectation that people will be present and participate in person. Your personal preference may be to work at night, but your team is in the office during the day—and they need you there.

Your team needs you to be present in order to communicate and interact with you. They need your input and spontaneous reactions to questions that are asked and ideas that are kicked around. Working together on a project can’t be acomplished if someone is absent during the day and only logs on at night.

Like it or not, at least half the world is made up of morning people. You may not be one of them by nature, but you can train yourself to become one. It’s not college anymore when you can take classes that start after noon. The good news, however, is that after work there is no homework.

If you’re still not convinced, perhaps you can find solace in the fact it could be worse. One large U.S-based firm scheduled weekly conference calls at two o’clock in the afternoon and expected everyone on the team to be on the call—including a colleague in the Singapore office. No matter that, for him, it was two o’clock in the morning. After the call was over, usually around three-thirty in the morning Singapore time, he was back in the office by nine o’clock—with a double-shot espresso, of course.

In time you may be able to find a position with your company or a job with another firm that better suits your internal clock. In some industries—healthcare, financial services, and consulting, to name a few—there are 24-hour teams of professionals. If you prefer the night shift, there may be a place for you.

In addition, there are some companies that do allow some flexibility in working hours. Recently, while visiting Microsoft headquarters, I was surprised to learn that engineers have the option of coming to work in the mid-morning. It doesn’t shorten their workday, of course; if they come in at 10 or 11 in the morning, they work until 6 or 7 or even later. Many others at the company, however, work more traditional hours—as I found out during a 5:30 “traffic jam” on the corporate campus. When I asked who were all these people leaving work, I was told it was the administrative staff.

The bottom line to having a successful career is to be available to interact with your team, and in most cases that means “face time.” So get up earlier and face the day. You always have the weekends to sleep in.

The Extraordinary Career features proven success strategies and advice for recent graduates and young professionals from William J. White, who draws upon a successful corporate career, including as Chairman and CEO of a New York Stock Exchange-traded company. Bill is now Professor at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University, and author of the career book for young professionals, ¬From Day One: CEO Advice to Launch an Extraordinary Career.

Got a question? Email Bill White at

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