Bosses need to wake up to how daylight saving and cyberloafing are screwing them

Alf has never been an enthusiast for daylight saving. Among other considerations, it requires him to alter his household clocks twice a year, a tiresome chore which challenges his manual dexterity, and he finds it disconcerting to be headed for the club for a few snorts when it seems there is ample daylight for another hour or two for outdoor activities.

Thus he is delighted to find another good economic argument against daylight saving.

He was already aware of research showing daylight saving results in increased energy usage, something that should have become a matter of concern for the bloody Greens, you would think.

Now he can draw his constituents’ attention to research which suggests that people “cyberloaf” – websurf instead of working – more when they are tired. This in turn can be related to daylight saving.

Alf will be bringing the costs of daylight saving to the attention of The Boss and our Ministers of Finance and Labour and will be raising his concerns with the Productivity Commission.

He was alerted to the research on cyberloafing by a post on the Freakonomics website.

It said of the research findings-

Some people may find this surprising. (We do not.) If nothing else,this is another argument against Daylight Savings Time.

The research is reported in the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest which explains:

The investigators recognised an event that affects everyone’s sleep: when the clocks go forward for Daylight Saving Time. Prior evidence suggests we lose on average 40 minutes of sleep per night following the switch, as our body rhythms struggle to adjust. (Exploiting a fixed phenomena is an example of a quasi-experiment; another would be the hurricane that occurred within this study on emotional hangovers.) The researchers used data from 203 metropolitan areas in the USA, weighted by area size, across 2004-2009. They found that Entertainment-related searches on the Monday after DST were 3.1% more prevalent than the previous Monday, and 6.4% than the subsequent Monday.

The costs of cyberloafing have been estimated at around £300m a year, according to the BPS Research Digest

… so it’s worth understanding when we’re more vulnerable to its temptations; UK employers should remember this when our clocks go forward on the 25th of this month.

The BPS Research Digest steers us to the paper by Wagner, D., Barnes, C., Lim, V., & Ferris, D. (2012) titled Lost Sleep and Cyberloafing: Evidence From the Laboratory and a Daylight Saving Time Quasi-Experiment in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The Abstract explains:

The Internet is a powerful tool that has changed the way people work. However, the ubiquity of the Internet has led to a new workplace threat to productivity-cyberloafing. Building on the ego depletion model of self-regulation, we examine how lost and low-quality sleep influence employee cyberloafing behaviors and how individual differences in conscientiousness moderate these effects. We also demonstrate that the shift to Daylight Saving Time (DST) results in a dramatic increase in cyberloafing behavior at the national level. We first tested the DST-cyberloafing relation through a national quasi-experiment, then directly tested the relation between sleep and cyberloafing in a closely controlled laboratory setting. We discuss the implications of our findings for theory, practice, and future research.

This reinforces the case against daylight saving on energy-wasting grounds.

A working paper a few years ago, Does Daylight Saving Time Save Energy? Evidence From a Natural Experiment in Indianaby Matthew J. Kotchen and Laura E. Grant, said:

The history of daylight saving time (D.S.T.) has been long and controversial. Throughout its implementation during World Wars I and II, the oil embargo of the 1970′s, consistent practice today, and recent extensions, the primary rationale for D.S.T. has always been to promote energy conservation.

Nevertheless, there is surprisingly little evidence that D.S.T. actually saves energy. This paper takes advantage of a natural experiment in the state of Indiana to provide the first empirical estimates of D.S.T. effects on electricity consumption in the United States since the mid-1970′s.

Focusing on residential electricity demand, we conduct the first-ever study that uses micro-data on households to estimate an overall D.S.T. effect. The dataset consists of more than 7 million observations on monthly billing data for the vast majority of households in southern Indiana for three years.

Our main finding is that — contrary to the policy’s intent — D.S.T. increases residential electricity demand.

Estimates of the overall increase are approximately 1 percent, but we find that the effect is not constant throughout the D.S.T. period. D.S.T. causes the greatest increase in electricity consumption in the fall, when estimates range between 2 and 4 percent.

These findings are consistent with simulation results that point to a tradeoff between reducing demand for lighting and increasing demand for heating and cooling. We estimate a cost of increased electricity bills to Indiana households of $9 million per year. We also estimate social costs of increased pollution emissions that range from $1.7 to $5.5 million per year. Finally, we argue that the effect is likely to be even stronger in other regions of the United States.

Daylight saving in this country – for those of you with a keen interest in history – can be traced back to an entomologist and astronomer, George Hudson, who is regarded as the earliest known advocate of daylight saving in New Zealand.

Hudson presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society in 1895 advocating for seasonal time adjustment. However society members ridiculed his idea.

And it deserved to be ridiculed (as it still does).

The issue was raised again in 1909 by Parliamentarian Hon Sir Thomas Sidey who argued for putting clocks forward by one hour during summer so there would be an additional hour of daylight in the evenings.

He introduced a Member’s Bill to put this idea into effect. The Bill was rejected.

But Sidey was a persistent bugger, reintroducing it every year for the next 20 years.

It almost became law in 1915 and again in 1926 when it was passed by the House of Representatives, but was rejected by the Legislative Council (which was New Zealand’s upper house of Parliament until 1951).

It is noteworthy that, during the second reading of his Summer Time Bill in 1926, Sidey argued

…the extra hour of daylight after working-hours during the summer months is of especial value to indoor workers and the community as a whole as it gives one additional hour for recreation of all kinds, whether playing games or working in garden plots…one cannot overlook the economic advantages that will also accrue. There will be a saving in the consumption of artificial light.

You can read the rest of the history at that website.

Suffice to say daylight saving was eventually introduced and a petition to extend daylight saving in 2006 was presented to Parliament with an estimated 42,000 signatures.

In 2007 the period of daylight saving was extended to run from the last Sunday in September until the first Sunday in April.

So we’ve got a few more weeks of burning more energy than we would be doing if we had no daylight saving and a few more weeks during which bosses will be short-changed by the cyber-slackers on their staffs.

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