Will productivity fall with BST?

British Summer Time began on Sunday 25 March as the clocks went forward an hour. But what effect will this have on workers’ productivity?

A recent post on our Research Digest blog looked at the effect that this change has on ‘cyberloafing’ – that is frittering away time looking at websites not related to the task in hand.

The article reported the work of a group led by David Wagner, began sifting through Google's publicly available data for rates of entertainment-related searches, which they  judged to be a reasonable proxy of cyberloafing.

The researchers’ article suggests that we may be more prone to cyberloaf when we haven't had enough sleep. And they indentified an event that affects everyone's sleep: the night when clocks across the USA go forward for Daylight Saving Time (DST). 

Prior evidence suggests people lose on average 40 minutes of sleep per night following this switch, as their body rhythms struggle to adjust. 

The researchers used data from 203 metropolitan areas in the USA, weighted by area size, across 2004-9. They found that entertainment-related searches on the Monday after DST were 3.1 per cent more prevalent than on the previous Monday, and 6.4 per cent than on the subsequent Monday . 

Data weren’t broken down betweeny work and leisure hours, so the effect includes extra surfing that might occur later at night, when people are still feeling awake. But the bulk of online activity occurs during working hours.

The Research Digest post also looks at a second, laboratory-based investigation of the effect of the clock change.

It’s author Alex Fradera concludes:

“The costs of cyberloafing have been estimated at around £300m a year, so it's worth understanding when we're more vulnerable to its temptations; UK employers should remember this when our clocks go forward on 25 March.”