Circadian Diversity: Sleep Chronotypes and Workplace Design

In 2017, scientists discovered the "body clock" gene, revealing that humans are born with one of three chronotypes: morning, intermediate, and evening. This session discusses a relatively unexplored topic--how the modern workplace experience, from organizational structure to physical space, impacts our circadian rhythms and chronotypes.

Sleep is essential for survival and cognitive functioning. Lack of sleep due to deprivation, restriction, disorders, or misalignment of chronotype-to-workplace schedules is associated with adverse mental and physical health outcomes. Fatigue in the workplace can impact decision making, memory, reaction time, efficiency, safety, and overall performance. These outcomes can have significant financial impacts on the organization, industry, and economy. Ensuring the workplace environment is ideal for alertness and reduction of fatigue means providing adequate and proper lighting, humidity and noise control, and ergonomic design of furniture.

Given the impact of sleep loss on individual employees and organizations, increased attention to chronotypes and their relationship with the workplace should be a priority for researchers, leaders, organizations, architects, and designers. This session will dive into the importance of understanding chronotypes and implementing strategies to better accommodate and support employees. By recognizing the diverse chronobiological patterns inherent in individuals, designers can learn to tailor spaces to accommodate and enhance the well-being and productivity of employees.

Sarah Wicker

Branded Environments, Principal


Principal and director of branded environments in the Dallas studio of Perkins&Will, Sarah Wicker leads a multidisciplinary team working with designers to translate the essence of clients’ brands into memorable and engaging experiences. A deeply strategic thinker, she has an intrinsic drive to understand human motivation and connection to place. She believes that great design starts with understanding people, a belief backed up by more than 20 years in brand strategy, trend forecasting, human-centered design, and applied research.

Raised in Texas, Sarah has worked with developers, municipalities, and major brands around the globe. She is a frequent contributor to industry publications, a repeat speaker at ICSC, ULI, and AIA conferences, and—deepening her research into behavior and identity—she recently finished a master’s degree in psychology at Harvard University. Curious and energetic, Sarah finds guidance in empathy.

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