The effects of getting that extra hour in bed
Ahead of the clocks going back on Sunday, Alex Blackburne explores the potential environmental and social repercussions of a routine which, on paper, is so innocent.
It’s that time of year again: the time that, if the changeable and increasingly grim weather hadn’t already warned us, officially signals the end of British Summer Time.
On Sunday at precisely 2:00am, the clocks will go back one hour, but does this biannual time-altering routine affect the environment?
Dr Elizabeth Garnsey, Emeritus Reader in Innovation Studies at the University of Cambridge, was part of a research team that thinks it does.
“The key point is that there is no evidence to show that putting the clocks back has any benefits for the environment,” Dr Garnsey explained.
“But there is evidence for the costs of GMT – which are the result of more people being awake and active in the late afternoon or early evening than in the early morning.
“For this reason, timing sunset an hour earlier in winter causes more road accidents [and] has adverse effects for outdoor activity, health, crime and tourism, among other spheres.”
The research carried out at Cambridge suggests that it is more energy efficient to make evenings lighter, as people are likely to stay outside longer, thus using less electricity in their homes and reducing emissions.
Dr Garnsey also picked out Scotland as one of the worst affected places by the clocks changing.
Reported Road Casualties, a 2009 Scottish Government report found that most car accidents not involving alcohol took place between midnight and 6:00am – when there was little or no sunlight.
Dr Garnsey claims the report shows that, “a strong inference can be drawn that there would be benefits from later timing of sunset further north.”
Productivity is also affected by the extra hour in bed.
This time last year research firm Gyro conducted a study into productivity, and found that UK businesses were set to lose £18 billion over the subsequent six months – £165 million a day – as employees struggled to adjust to the dark afternoons.
Marketing Director Patrick Danaher explained that although there are “lots of good reasons” why the clocks need to change, the company had come up with a project called ‘@Work State of Mind’ in an attempt to combat dwindling productivity.
“What we want to bring into the flow and have a conversation about is how businesses change and whether businesses should change.
“Our premise is that if we’re travelling to work and it’s dark outside, going into a dark working environment has an effect on productivity, and equally, during the latter part of the day, if you’re up in the office in the winter months.”
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