We Call It ‘Daylight Saving Time’ But It Costs Us Millions

DST was instituted in wartime — is it too costly to use today?

Don’t forget to turn your clocks back an hour at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4, when daylight saving time ends  — although chances are your electronic products will update themselves. So once the clock strikes 2 it’s really 1 a.m., and you can take advantage of an extra hour of sleep.

The original point of daylight saving time was to help people save energy and electricity by giving them an extra hour of natural light in the spring, but has daylight saving time outlived its usefulness? Does daylight saving time cost more than it saves?

The Cost of Daylight Saving Time

It turns out, daylight saving time might be more of a bane than a boon for the workplace. A financial cost for the biannual switch is hard to pin down, but a study by Chmura Economics & Analytic estimated that daylight saving time costs the U.S. more than $430 million a year. Other figures are even higher; a 2008 report by the Independent Institute claimed the annual costs for changing clocks twice a year could be as high as $1.7 billion.

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So why does changing clocks costs money? Chmura’s study concluded that setting the clocks forward “can lead to an increase in heart attacks, workplace injuries in the mining and construction sectors, and increased cyberloafing that reduces productivity for people who typically work in offices.” Since changing clock times affects sleep, it might also affect people’s circadian rhythms. This circadian misalignment has consequences for workers, including possible drowsiness and added stress to the cardiovascular system. The “cyberloafing” Chmura outlines for white-collar workers indicates the time wasted spent browsing the web following changing the clocks, which decreases productivity and thus profits.

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Does Daylight Saving Time Actually Save Energy?

Daylight saving time was first introduced in the United States during World War I, and it returned during World War II — then known as “war time.” It wasn’t formalized until 1966, with the passage of the Uniform Time Act. Conclusions on whether or not daylight saving time actually saves energy — ostensibly the entire reason it was created — are mixed. A 2008 study with Indiana residents found turning the clocks forward an hour increased energy use rather than conserving it. Plus, due to the associated health risks of turning clocks forward, worker productivity likely decreases, too.

California voters will decide on Nov. 6 whether to allow the legislature to change the daylight saving time period — it’s called the Permanent Daylight Saving Time Measure. It’s safe to say the debate around daylight saving time isn’t remotely close to being over.

Don’t let the time change interrupt your routine — here’s how to maintain work-life balance.

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