It happens twice every year and in every state in the U.S. (except for Hawaii and Arizona). The clocks get turned an hour: forward in the spring, backward in the fall. We’re all used to appreciating the extra daylight in the summer and enjoying the extra hour of sleep on that one Sunday morning in the fall.
But what does it mean for business—if anything? What is the cost of daylight savings time for business?
There are studies that cite the time change as a negative and place the price tag north of $400 billion, mainly due to negative impacts on work productivity. However, studies of economic behavior are dicey in any event and in particular when trying to measure the impact of changing the clocks.
Impact on commerce
There are businesses that are clearly helped by the time change—the extra hour in the summer is a boon for golf courses and other recreational facilities. The desire to be outside when it’s light out impacts retail businesses as well. Any store that relies on foot traffic can be expected to perform better in the months where there’s an extra hour of sunlight.
But there is a flip side.
E-commerce increases during the “dark months.” Recreational dollars that were spent on the golf course during the summer might be spent on movies or some other indoor activity during the winter. Thus, while individual businesses might have strong convictions on the value (or lack thereof) of daylight savings time, the view of the macro whole seems to be a net wash.
Impact on employees
If a difference is to be found, it’s what daylight savings time does to productivity. When we turn our clocks forward in the spring, that’s 1 less hour of sleep. That impact can linger for at least a week. Tired employees are more likely to check out and aimlessly surf the Internet or otherwise be unfocused on their job. Unless your business is one that’s getting increased sales due to the extra hour of sunlight, the decrease in productivity can’t be covered for.
The loss of an hour can also leave people stressed and 1 study showed that the risk of someone having a heart attack increases on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday immediately following the clocks moving ahead. There is also a documented increase in traffic accidents along with workplace injuries on the Monday following daylight savings time. All of which can be reasonably attributed to fatigue and people feeling rushed.
The autumn shift of the clocks backward brings its own set of challenges. The fact it now gets dark early causes depression—Seasonal Affective Disorder—and it affects anywhere from 6 to 20 percent of the population to some degree or another. Needless to say, depressed employees aren’t as productive.
Daylight savings time can seem like an outdated idea, more suited to an agrarian society, but there’s no evidence it’s going away anytime soon. Business owners can best manage by watching for its impact on their employees’ health and workflow, and adjust accordingly.