How Daylight Savings Time Affects Productivity

Plus, here are seven ways to maintain your effort and production.

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By John Rampton Originally published

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Contrary to popular belief, daylight savings time was not pushed by the agriculture industry. According to The History Channel, farmers were "deeply opposed to the time switch when it was first implemented on March 31, 1918 — as a wartime measure." But how does daylight savings time affect productivity?

The daylight savings time change has had a minimal effect on energy savings, and it has sucked the life out of productivity. Experts have found that daylight savings time is associated with productivity loss because of the following reasons.

Daylight savings alters your sleep schedule.

"I don't know about long-term implications, but short-term effects play out primarily on the Monday after daylight saving and peter out throughout the rest of the week," says Christopher Barnes, an assistant professor of management and organization at the University of Washington. "It might take two to four days to get back to normal."

Barnes has found that most people lose up to 40 minutes of sleep after Daylight Savings Time. That may not seem like much. But, it's just enough to throw your 24-hour natural cycle, or circadian rhythm, out of whack for the time being.

As a result, you may experience fatigue and daytime sleepiness. It also can impact your work performance, concentration and memory. Even more alarming is the fact that this productivity lapse can have serious implications. Traffic accidents shoot up the day after daylight-savings time begins. Workplace injuries are also known to spike after the time change in March.

While these accidents aren't as common in November, moving our clocks in either direction can affect sleep since we're forced to reset our 24-hour internal cycle. "In general, "losing' an hour in the spring is more difficult to adjust to than "gaining' an hour in the fall," writes Michael J. Breus, Ph.D. "It is similar to airplane travel; traveling east, we lose time."

"Going to bed "earlier" could result in "difficulty falling asleep and increased wakefulness during the early part of the night," adds Dr. Breus. "Going west, we fall asleep easily but may have a difficult time waking."

Related: How a Better Night's Sleep Can Help Entrepreneurs Stay Calm and Focused at Work

It negatively influences your health.

"Previous studies have shown that disruptions in a person's circadian rhythm, also called an internal body clock, increase the risk of ischemic stroke, so we wanted to find out if daylight saving time was putting people at risk," said Dr. Jori Ruuskanen, of the University of Turku, in Finland.

In this study, Dr. Ruuskanen analyzed a decade of stroke data. It was then compared with "the rate of stroke in over 3,000 people hospitalized during the week after a daylight saving time transition." The results? The rate of "ischemic stroke was eight percent higher during the first two days after a daylight saving time transition."

Additionally, the change in time can also change your diet and appetite. When we "fall back," we may overeat because our hormonal balance is thrown off. When your health isn't in peak condition, you just aren't going to be as productive. Besides being exhausted and being distracted by hunger, you may also make more mistakes or feel sluggish.

DST can cause mood swings.

Research has found that the end of Daylight Saving time can also change our moods. Specifically, the time in change increases the amount of depression diagnosis. Primarily, this is because we feel as if the days are much shorter.

Additionally, "The transition to standard time is likely to be associated with a negative psychological effect, as it very clearly marks the coming of a period of long, dark and cold days," says Søren D. Østergaard, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at Aarhus University in Denmark.

And because we aren't getting as exposed to as much natural light and spending enough time outdoors, this triggers seasonal affective disorder.

Related: Get Activated: Improving Mental Health in Startups

More time spent, "cyberloafing."

The workplace is already full of distractions. Everything from your smartphone, the internet, meetings, co-workers and multitasking are always pulling you away from your work. Now imagine if you're tired, hungry and just feeling blah. Those distractions will become even more prevalent.

Our friend Christopher Barnes discovered that this is the case following the Monday after daylight savings time. Dubbed "cyberloafing," Barnes reported that more people spend more time surfing the web than actually working.

There may be payroll considerations.

As explained by SHRM, daylight savings time "presents a challenge for employers whose nonexempt employees are working during that time." For example, non-exempt employees who happen to be working "at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3, must pay them one additional hour of pay unless the start/end times of their shifts are adjusted in anticipation of the time change." In short, you're paying these employees twice.

Additionally, these employees may be entitled overtime compensation. As a result, unless you have someone else managing your accounting, you'll have to spend the time figuring all of this out. That's time that could have been spent elsewhere.

Related: The Importance of Outsourcing Your Payroll

Daylight savings time isn't observed everywhere.

While daylight savings time is observed in 70 countries, including most of Europe, North America, parts of South America and New Zealand, it's super unpopular. Countries near the equator, as well as China, Japan and India, do not.

Even here in the States, it's not observed entirely because Arizona and Hawaii don't join in on the fun. Moreover, California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin are considering opting out.

While this shouldn't make things too complicated, all your electronics and online calendar should update automatically; it could make scheduling events a bit more hectic. What if you're a business owner in Arizona and schedule a morning meeting with your remote team the day following DST? They're going to be exhausted and not completely engaged. In turn, the event won't just be unproductive. It will also be a waste of time.

How can you remain productive during daylight saving time?

Until we ditch this outdated practice, DST is inevitable for a lot of us. But, that doesn't mean that your productivity has to be jeopardized as long as you do the following:

  1. Give yourself extra time to acclimatize. Adjust to the new sleep schedule several days in advance so that your body can get used to the new pattern.
  2. Expose yourself to light. Ideally, this should be sunlight. If not possible, use a lightbox.
  3. Exercise and plan your diet. Getting your body combats fatigue and releases endorphins that will improve your mood. As for your diet, eat brainfood, and limit your caffeine intake following lunch.
  4. Be mindful of your naps. You may be sleep-deprived, but taking an afternoon nap may interfere with your sleep at night. Either skip the rest for now or keep it under 20 minutes.
  5. Move important meetings. Unless it's essential, do not schedule meetings on the Monday after the change.
  6. Save more demanding tasks for later. Speaking of the Monday after DST, reserve it only for soft functions that do not require much concentration and energy. Schedule your more challenging responsibilities for later in the week.
  7. Work from home. To prevent any driving accidents or workplace incidents, see if you can work from home the day after the time change.

Has daylight savings time ever affected your productivity? If so, how did you fight back?

John Rampton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Entrepreneur and Connector

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the calendar productivity tool Calendar.

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