Daylight Saving Time 2012: Bill Lumbergh types warned about cyberloafing

Study finds Daylight Saving Time 2012 could cause 'staggering' amounts of cyberloafing at work.

Mary Knox Merrill/The Christian Science Monitor
Employees work on computers at their cubicles in the offices of Ernst & Young in Boston, Mass. The company, which specializes in professional tax and accounting services, has been cited on numerous published lists of Best Companies to Work For.

Daylight Saving Time 2012 won't have much of an effect on America's pajama workers – scratch that, digital commuters – but bosses around America have been warned: DST causes cyberloafing.

As our artificial means of time measurement crashes ahead by an hour Sunday morning in an attempt, via daylight saving time, to mechanically reorder the natural cycles of the mammal known as the white collar worker, outlooks on sleep and, thus, work invariably change. But by how much?

Enough to make Bill Lumbergh (of “Office Space” fame) and his consultant minions choke on their coffee, according to a story in the Journal of Applied Psychology, which presumably outlines the myriad ways day-waging humans achieve applied sanity in the Google age.

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In fact, researchers used Google data as well as an experiment that tested how sleep-deprived subjects reacted to having to attend a boring lecture to conclude that the 40 minutes of average sleep lost to daylight saving time causes workers to “self-regulate” less efficiently, and in turn increase their hourly “cyberloafing” by an average of 8.4 minutes. Cyberloafing, of course, is looking at political blogs and surfing Amazon instead of putting the new cover sheets on TPS reports.

The upshot? “Global productivity losses from a spike in employee cyberloafing are potentially staggering,” the researchers conclude.

Now, complaints about Daylight Saving Time, originally proposed by a 19th  century butterfly collector who wanted more time at the end of the workday to scour fields for insects, go back to its implementation during World War I (peacetime standardization came in 1966).

The most recent real adjustment in the US came in 2007, when the change was moved up to the second Sunday in March from the first Sunday in April to lengthen “summertime” and gauge potential energy savings. Polls showed farmers, perennial DST opponents, grumbled, and sports retailers (who benefit from the extra hour of daylight for play time after work) rejoiced.

Academic researchers, however, tend to have it in for DST.

A team of University of Alabama researchers even concluded that the lost hour of sleep can have negative impacts on health, especially for people who already stay up too late.

“Sleep deprivation, the body's circadian clock and immune responses all can come into play when considering reasons that changing the time by an hour can be detrimental to someone's health,” UA Prof. Martin Young told the British Daily Mail newspaper.

The most recent Journal of Applied Psychology article also sparked researchers to call on sensible politicians to rethink the whole daylight saving time thing in light of the potential productivity losses it causes, especially for managers who “in the current economy, are squeezing more and more work out of fewer employees.”

"In the push for high productivity, managers and organizations may cut into the sleep of employees by requiring longer work hours," the researchers write. "This may promote vicious cycles of lost sleep, resulting in less time spent working, which could result in more frantic pushes for extended work time. Managers may find that by avoiding infringement on employee sleep, they will get more productivity out of their employees."

Here's hoping Bill Lumbergh gets that memo.

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