Yes, you can haul your butt to an early meeting

The Wall Street Journal ran a curious piece titled, “Is It Ever OK to Have an 8 a.m. Meeting?” It contained two dubious assumptions: (1) That 8 a.m. is very early in the morning, and (2) Employees have a right to rebel against a company policy that interferes with drop-off time for kids at school — or forces them to alter their workout schedules.

One can sympathize with a parent’s desire for predictable schedules. But if they can’t be flexible enough to occasionally show up at work an hour early, they may need a different employer.

Many global businesses, particularly in finance, may need everyone together at a time when they can confer with colleagues in other time zones. As the article notes, “early-morning work hours are a hallmark of the finance and health care industries as well as education, and a standby of high-powered executives.”

But what made 8 a.m. such an outrageously early hour? To a lot of working Americans, 8 a.m. is practically lunchtime. Firefighters, police, nurses and emergency room doctors work the entire night. (Some are lucky if they get home by 8 a.m.) In rural America, the cows have already been milked by 6 a.m.

About 16% of full-time employees work on “alternative shifts,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, a gust of entitlement blows from some of these squawks about early meetings. “If I have to push myself to an 8 o’clock meeting,” 36-year-old Jake Rudy is quoted, “I really had better have a good reason for being there.” Keeping his job could be a good reason.

If an early meeting has to happen, Lorna Hagen said, managers should notify workers well in advance. Fair enough, when possible. But speaking in Gen-Z she added, “companies have to be very intentional about what conditions they set.”

I once had an editing job that started at 6 a.m. As part of my interview, the boss sternly asked me, “You are going to be here at 6 a.m., right?” I answered, “Yes, that’s the job” and was hired.

I’ve since developed enormous respect for those who rise in the early hours to serve the 9-to-5ers. During a stay in Kirkland, Wash., I recall visiting the only place that served coffee at 6 a.m. It was a downtown Starbucks where two young women served pre-dawn lattes with unforgettable cheer. They had opened the place at 5:30.

As for my 6 a.m. editing job, true, I didn’t like having to haul out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to dress and catch a downtown bus to the office. But navigating pre-dawn Manhattan now remains one of my most fabulous dreamscapes.

Because of the early hour, buses were few, so I’d catch the same one every day. I got to know the bus driver (when did he get up?) and also the janitors on their way to opening downtown office buildings. We formed something of a club.

The bus passed through Times Square at around 5:45 a.m. — a strange bewitching hour where late night met early morning. You could look up at the second floors and see revelers still dancing under disco balls. On street level, meanwhile, a small army of trucks was bringing danishes to the city’s coffee shops preparing to open for the morning commuters.

Look, workers can rightly fight off demands to answer non-urgent emails after dinner. But the boundaries they draw have to be consonant with the terms of employment. If someone routinely working 9-to-5 is expected to show up at 8 a.m. for a special meeting, well, that’s the job. As the song goes, take it or shove it.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected].