People often stay up late watching television and movies. These days, however, more and more people are staying up well into the night to work instead. We surveyed over 1,000 remote employees to get their take on all things regarding burning the midnight oil (working past midnight). First, we'll take a look at who's most likely to work into the early hours and their reasons for doing it. We'll also compare the night owls to those who clock out at a normal hour for various job-related topics and assess the likelihood of respondents continuing to work late, even in a post-pandemic world. The work schedule that we've known for a long time might be getting phased out … read on to find out more!
A little under half of the respondents reported working past midnight. A higher percentage of men seemed to stay up and work (50%) than women (44%) and Gen Zers were the busiest, with 54% of them working the night shift. Regarding marital status, 55% of married remote workers work late into the night, and 57% who had children reported burning the midnight oil as well. A recent survey, conducted by S&P Global and AARP based on responses by over 1,500 working individuals, demonstrated that more than half of parents are spending more time taking care of their children since the pandemic began. This might explain why married couples need to stay up late to work their non-parenting jobs.
The upper echelon of the employee chain (middle and senior management) worked more hours per week, on average, and spent a lot more time working late into the night. Just over a third of intermediate-level employees worked past midnight, which was significantly less than the others. While entry-level employees worked the least hours per week on average, 45% of them worked past midnight.
On the topic of sleeping habits, many remote workers either have trouble disconnecting from work or stay up later because of it, and just under half reported working past midnight. Generally, in all three categories, younger generations reported losing more sleep than older generations. Of those who had trouble disconnecting, 57% said it affected their sleeping habits three or more times per week.
The ideal bedtime on a workday, according to the majority of respondents at 23%, was 10 p.m.; although 22% said they were realistically calling it a day an hour later. While 51% of baby boomers claimed to get to sleep at their ideal time, the younger the generations got, the less likely they were to have the same privilege.
The link between sleep and job performance is incredibly apparent. Long story short, we need enough of it to properly function throughout the working day. Seeing as the recommended amount of sleep per night for adults aged 18 to 64 is between seven and nine hours, and 35.2% of adults in the U.S. report sleeping for less than seven, fatigue and the negative impact it can have on productivity is an all too common issue.
The most popular reason for working late was simply because respondents didn't have enough time during the day to get everything done. Nonmanagers attributed their late-night work sessions to this reason much more than managers did. Generally, though, more managers worked until after midnight than nonmanagers. The next most common reason was that people were working side jobs or doing freelance work – unsurprisingly, over twice as many people who had side gigs worked overtime than those who did not.
One reason that many have resorted to working a second job is the negative financial impact that the pandemic has had on many U.S. citizens. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that about a quarter of adults have had trouble paying their bills since the beginning of the pandemic, a third have needed to dip into their savings or retirement fund, and 1 in 6 have borrowed money from a loved one or frequented a food bank. For many, working late has become a necessity.
When comparing remote workers who work late versus those who don't, the night owls were more likely to feel stressed, burned out, and likely to look for a new job within six months – but were also more likely to have received a promotion in the past six months. The late nights are emotionally and physically taxing, but there's clearly some reward to be gained.
Those who did not work past midnight felt better about their work-life balance and workplace productivity, but people burning the midnight oil had higher satisfaction, compared to employees clocking out at a normal hour. Although staying up late comes with a price, the potential benefits of working overtime, according to employers, include higher pay and an increased likelihood of getting promoted.
Interestingly, just under two-thirds of respondents wanted to keep working into the night. People with children were keener on it than those without, but the system is clearly working for many people. Sixty-seven percent also considered late-night work a perk, and parents were more likely to agree with this sentiment too. Millennials were most likely to want to continue working late and were also the most likely to consider being able to a perk. According to a study conducted at Bentley University, this particular generation values flexible work hours very highly and believes it makes the workplace more productive for people their age.
A significant number of respondents reported having been told by co-workers and managers to stop working late, presumably because of the negative aspects previously mentioned. Nevertheless, the statistics showed that many workers are happy with their current late-night schedule – although it's impossible to predict how this dynamic may change post-pandemic.
Generally, younger people tend to work later than their older counterparts. Millennials, especially, prefer a flexible work schedule and have no issue burning the midnight oil. In fact, many people are accustomed to working at night and are likely to continue doing so indefinitely. On the other hand, older generations had healthier sleeping habits, but the trade-off didn't seem to faze youngsters too much.
Also, managers needed to put in extra hours more often than nonmanagers did, and many people needed to work a second job to make ends meet during these financially trying times. Working late can have negative impacts on your well-being but positive outcomes on your career advancement. Either way, it has become a necessity for many.
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Our content explores ideas we are passionate about, usually revolving around the topic of business or the workplace. In this case, we've spoken about the relationship between the remote workplace, burning the midnight oil, and its consequences. All of our work is based on primary research that we've conducted in order to bring our articles to life.
In this study, we surveyed 1,005 remote employees. Of these, 922 were full-time employees, and 83 were part-time employees. 42.8% identified as female, 56.9% identified as male, and 0.3% identified as nonbinary. The average age of these respondents was 37.4 years, with a standard deviation of 10.5 years.
The main limitation of this portion of the study is the reliance on self-report, which is faced with several issues such as, but not limited to, attribution, exaggeration, recency bias, and telescoping.
If you know people who get their work done well into the night, feel free to share this article with them for any noncommercial use. All we ask is to please include a link back to this page so your readers can have access to our methodology and findings and our contributors can earn credit for their work.