In the still of the night, on a night in early spring, clocks will jump ahead. The first and most obvious side effect of Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the loss of one precious hour of sleep. As far as our health is concerned, there are more negative effects than just a little fatigue. Our body clocks find themselves way out of whack, our finances can take a hit causing more stress and the world uses more energy. However, there is a silver lining to the quantum leap. It may be the last time we perform this antiquated ritual.
Going back to the past
In 1907, Englishman William Willett developed and financed a booklet entitled The Waste of Daylight. In the publication, he argued that clocks should be set ahead about 80 minutes during the summer. He stated that this change would result in savings on lighting and candles amounting to up to 2.5 million pounds annually. Although the first official proposals for a time change were presented in the eighteenth century by American politician and scholar, Benjamin Franklin, it was Willett who carried the idea through to fruition.
Arguments promising millions in savings hit the ground running. A mere six years after Willett’s written proposal landed on newsstands, time was changed by the Dual-Monarchy and the Reich. Shortly after, British authorities decided to do the same.
“Time is money”
One of the main reasons for the idea of a time change was to save costly electricity and candles. This meant that after resetting clocks in the autumn, factories could work more daylight hours. And it worked well, for a time. Today, companies and factories function with artificial lighting regardless of the time of day or night, with some running round the clock. Therefore, the primary logic behind the application of DST has lost its significance. In a surprising counterclaim, according to the European Commission's 2007 report, Daylight Saving Time actually increases energy consumption especially during the height of summer.
Today, there is more talk about the costly negatives of DST than positives. For example, it is necessary for passenger railways to create new and temporary one-night timetables when changing from summer to winter time. Some trains are even forced to stop for an hour. This does not only disturb personal schedules, but is also a costly disruption for the train carriers with virtually no comprehensible advantages.
Moreover, research institutions have discovered that the negative influence of DST touches financial institutions as well. For instance, banks are required to introduce modifications to their systems semi-annually which entails additional costs. Alternatively, some banks simply decide to turn off their services for several hours, which in turn causes difficulties for customers. Electronic banking and card payments become inaccessible, certain ATMs do not work and transfers can be delayed.
”Breaks in access to services for financial institutions will never be positive as they may translate into lower income and margins. The world's financial markets also work round the clock. So, it's especially difficult to find any true benefits of Daylight Saving Time. Global statistics of many institutions in the world, think-tanks and governments alike, do not support the argument for savings resulting from the time change. It’s actually on the contrary,” says Bartosz Grejner, Analyst from Conotoxia.
Working and living against the clock
DST also causes problems for both employees and employers, albeit differently. During the transition from winter to summer, night shifts last an extra hour. Will employees therefore receive overtime or be forced to work the extra hour? Similarly, shorter working hours are not a choice of employees that are willing and ready to work a full shift, if the employer decides to cease operations. Will the employer be required to pay a so-called demurrage payment? Global labour codes don’t directly regulate DST, causing debate and confusion.
Daylight Saving Time can also negatively affect our health. The disruption to our internal biological clock and increased stress level shouldn’t be discounted. Research carried out by several independent teams and scientists (including Inge Kirchberger) indicates an increased rate of heart attacks among men during and in the short period following DST.
Ceasing DST - better late than never
DST is currently regulated by the European Commission in the EU and the U.S. Department of Transportation in America. In Europe, certain member countries have taken measures to abandon these arrangements and remain in the original time. In the United States, the opportunity for states to discontinue DST autonomously is much more complicated and virtually impossible without dismantling the Uniform Time Act of 1966.
Complications aside, more and more jurisdictions are leaving the proverbial past behind them and adopting the old ways of letting time simply march on in its natural and chronological manner.