Those who jump out of bed with the first bleep of the alarm clock emit a sort of nauseating righteousness that is hard to take. Let’s not allow them to get away with thinking they are the hardest-working ones too, writes Clodagh Finn.

IF LEO Varadkar wins the Fine Gael leadership contest and becomes, as he has promised, a Taoiseach for early risers, let’s hope he will be magnanimous enough to appoint a Tánaiste for night owls.

Otherwise, he’s in danger of going about his business with the unbearable smugness of those who believe themselves superior because they’re up with the lark.

As it is, those who jump out of bed with the first bleep of the alarm clock emit a sort of nauseating righteousness that is hard to take.

They are the ones most likely to glance at the clock if you tippy-toe to your desk any time after 9.30am. Or to let slip at lunchtime — if they take it — how much easier it is to get through truckloads of work when there are no phones ringing pre-8am. Cue, little self-satisfied smile.

Let’s not allow them to get away with thinking they are the hardest-working ones too.

Or perhaps it is already too late for that. When Minister Varadker was asked to explain his comments about wanting to be a leader for people who got up early in the morning, he said he wanted Ireland to be a country that rewarded hard workers.

He did have the grace to say that those early risers weren’t all office workers; some of them were carers and others were people who worked full-time, and very hard, in the home.

CLODAGH FINN: Time to fly flag for late starters... before it’s too late

All the same, thank heavens, his opponent Simon Coveney took him to task. He said that kind of divisive talk separated achievers from non-achievers, public sector from private sector.

Well said. Then again, perhaps not. What did he mean, exactly? Was he, too, suggesting that the people who grabbed a few extra minutes under the duvet achieved less, or were somehow less inclined to work hard.

To be fair, he did stress that the homeless person in the sleeping bag was as big a priority for him as the person who is creating jobs in Ireland (from their desk at cockcrow, no doubt).

Among those who are lucky enough to work, are we to consider that those who are not in the gym by 7.30am or at their desks by 8.30am (9am at a push) are slackers?

How disconcerting, not least for the many, many people who work through the night to provide a range of vital services — from private transport to healthcare — and the many others who work staggered hours at home. What about all those shift workers who spend the morning bleary-eyed or in bed?

Or those who work in the so-called gig economy, who have sacrificed security for the freedom to choose their own working hours.

The digital age has allowed a whole new generation of workers to decide when, where and at what time they work.

Perhaps some of them choose to rise early, but many more are using their new-found freedom to work outside the constraints of the traditional workday.

Despite Minister Coveney’s high-minded desire to avoid division, it appears that the world is indeed cleft in two — in one camp, the morning people with their shiny halos and, in the shadows, those of us who function better when the sun is over the yardarm.

As a person who has spent a lifetime on the late, or later, shift, I admit to coming with a particular bias. There are mornings, I confess, when it feels as if a piece of industrial-strength strip of Velcro is holding me back from leaping forth.

I have shared stories with other late-starters who say they have got out of bed, turned off the alarm, returned to a deep slumber and then awoken to claim the thing never went off in the first place.

You see the body has its own clock, we explain. Then, we try to work with it. Work, being the operative word — just because a person squints at the dawn doesn’t mean that they are work-shy.

It’s time to fly the flag for late-starters and night owls. We are not the sloths that all those adages and axioms would have you believe.

The early bird, we’re told, catches the worm, but the night owl is often the one who comes along and cleans up afterwards. It’s not that they’re looking for praise, just a fair deal. As it stands, all the good press is with the early risers.

Benjamin Franklin’s famous saying – ‘early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’ – is considered an unassailable truth. Worse than that, Mr Franklin even has a raft of surveys to support him. Every business magazine from Forbes to Business Insider quotes studies that appear to show how early risers earn more, perform better and anticipate problems more efficiently.

On the other hand, those who burn the midnight oil, tend to drink more caffeine, smoke more cigarettes and suffer more from depression.

So, here’s the tally: early risers have society, science and now Leo Varadker on their side. No wonder a late-riser might be tempted to take to the bed.

CLODAGH FINN: Time to fly flag for late starters... before it’s too late

There is one small consolation – there are twice as many night owls as larks, at least according to one study in the New Scientist that says 10% of people leap out of bed in the morning, while 20% are inclined to press the ‘snooze’ button. The rest of the population falls somewhere in between.

Why, then, are there no pithy sayings to extol, if not the virtues, at least the contribution of people who start late but work later – and, let it be said, just as hard? All the phrases to do with the night have, well, something of the night about them; ‘fly-by-night’, ‘the dead of night’, ‘graveyard shift’ and on it goes.

Perhaps whoever wins the Fine Gael leadership contest will start to change all that. It’s not a matter of talking about achievers and non-achievers, but addressing the complexity of the ever-changing Irish workplace.

I’ll be all ears. Just not first thing.

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