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Tell your boss you’ll be in later

Kyle James Mar 12, 2007

Tell your boss you’ll be in later

Kyle James Mar 12, 2007

KAI RYSSDAL: I overslept this morning by an hour and 45 minutes. I’m tempted to say it’s all daylight savings’ fault. But the fact is I’ve been kind of foggy all day. Which is surprising, because usually I’m a morning person. But there are plenty of people who just aren’t. Whose brains don’t really work right until the sun’s much higher in the sky.

There’s a group in Denmark that’s trying to convince companies there’s nothing wrong with that. And that they can increase productivity if they make life easier for late risers. Kyle James reports from Copenhagen.

KYLE JAMES: Lars Johansen lives an hour north of Copenhagen in Elsinore — you know, Hamlet’s old stomping grounds. And to him, there’s definitely something rotten in the state of Denmark. It’s called the morning.

LARS JOHANSEN: The first thought I think is, “Oh my God, I’m not going to make it.”

Although Johansen’s anything but an early riser, he has to get up at the crack of dawn to be at work by seven.A caffeine infusion from freshly-ground coffee helps kick-start his brain. But still, he never really feels he’s at his best until late morning or the afternoon.

And he’s joined a rapidly growing group of like-minded morning haters in Denmark. They’re trying to convince the country to start thinking differently about how the working day is structured.

JOHANSEN: And I just feel like our society has moved to a point . . . we’re not so limited to time in space where you do your job. So I think society and the services of society has to follow.

The organization pushing for that change is called the B-Society. It just got off the ground in early January, but already has 3,000 members. It’s lobbying for businesses to be flexible and accommodate people who just can’t get going before 10 or 11.

The group says there are individuals who get along well with the morning, the A-people, and those who don’t, the B-people. Right now, the world is slanted toward the A group, says Camilla Kring, an engineer who founded the organization. But the B-people, she says, aren’t just a bunch of lazy bums.

CAMILLA KRING: Us, the B-people, we are just productive in some other times than A-people. A-people are sleeping in the evening. Maybe they aren’t so productive at 6 p.m., but the B-people are very productive at that time.

She says the current model of starting work early in the morning harkens back to an agricultural era, when farmers got up with their animals. Then there was the factory floor, where shift work was the norm. But farmers are a tiny minority in Denmark today, and much manufacturing in this high-wage country has moved overseas. As the economy moves more toward high-tech jobs, she says, attitudes toward working hours should change too.

KRING: When you are working with your brain, then it’s not about how many hours do you work, it is when are you most productive and when do you get these ideas.

Her group is now compiling a list of companies it’s calling B-certified. To make the list, a business has to show that it’s willing to accommodate the needs of morning haters, letting them work when they’re at their best. It’s also planning B-certifications for institutions like day care centers, schools and even government offices who’ve also thrown off the yoke of 9 to 5.

One company that’s sure to make the cut is Octoshape, based in Copenhagen. It provides Internet streaming services for radio stations and even worked with American Idol. The business has 12 employees. But today, at 11:30, there’s just one lone programmer typing away.

He’s the only A-person on staff. The rest come in around 12:30 or 1 and work until about 10:30 or 11 at night.

Company founder Stephen Alstrup says the upcoming B-certification will give him a competitive edge when it comes to recruiting new staff. That’s important in Denmark, where the unemployment rate is just 4 percent.

STEPHEN ALSTRUP: Normally what the company are doing is saying, we have a good salary, we have a good, traditional staff. I think if companies start up in Denmark saying we have a good company for B-persons, I mean that will attract some people out there, saying OK, that’s cool.

The B-society has gotten good reviews from politicians and trade unions in Denmark and the membership’s exploding. Not surprising, says founder Kring, since there are more late risers than early birds. Danish sleep researchers say some 15 percent of people like the morning, 25 percent don’t. The rest, they fall somewhere in the middle.

In Copenhagen, I’m Kyle James for Marketplace.

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