A wake-up call for UK businesses

Date: 27 October 2019
Written by: Extentia Group

At Extentia Group, we believe it is vital to understand how changing environments influence employees and how supporting their wellbeing can boost efficiency and productivity. As part of our report, “Overcoming the UK’s Productivity Challenge”, we quizzed workers on their own productivity levels, and how both internal and external factors affect performance. As part of this, we included questions about British Summer Time (BST) to understand if the seasonal clock change can have an effect on people’s productivity at work.

Since 1916, the clocks change twice a year, going forward by an hour in the spring and backward by an hour in the autumn - a model that has also been adopted by many countries across the world. These changes, which were first campaigned by builder William Willett in the early 1900s, allow for an extra hour of sunlight in the summer months. (For those of you that are trivia fans, William Willet was the great-great grandfather of Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, who actually wrote hit songs called Clocks and Daylight - although that might be a coincidence of course).

However, whilst many of us enjoy the longer evenings, there is certainly enough research to suggest that British Summer Time is negatively impacting the economy. With productivity the single biggest economic challenge facing Britain today this is a key concern.

Almost half of all respondents believed that BST could affect their productivity, with 40% admitting it particularly affected performance in the mornings. These alarming statistics were reiterated by the fact that over half of workers believe their entire routine has to be adjusted due to the changing clocks, with more than a third (34%) struggling to get up in the mornings. On average, respondents felt the effect of the change to and from BST for four days following the change, but more than 10% of women felt affected for more than two weeks.

There has also been substantial research conducted by other organisations that supports this view. A study featured in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that employees were less productive following a time change, which is hardly surprising when you consider fatigue makes it more difficult to concentrate. In addition, research by Rand Corporation found that inadequate sleep cost the UK economy £50 billion a year - equivalent to 1.9 per cent of GDP - due to decreased productivity and sickness. Finally, the EU Commission suggests "the effect [of BST] on the human biorhythm may be more severe than previously thought” and earlier this year, backed a proposal to stop the obligatory one-hour clock change which extends daylight hours in summer EU-wide. However, this is just the first step of many in the process towards making this legislation and it is also unclear how Brexit will affect the UK’s position.

Nigel Taylor, COO at Extentia said: “Earlier this year, UK businesses were issued with a stark warning as The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said it had taken a decade to deliver as much productivity growth as was previously achievable in a single year prior to the financial crisis, which is certainly alarming.

“We work with our clients to understand their workplace culture and what employees want from their work place. Many businesses want to use design to improve productivity and yet don’t take employee’s working habits, or the impact of things like BST, into account. Our recent report “Overcoming the UK’s Productivity Challenge”, explores why this approach can be to the detriment of staff productivity.

“It focuses on two distinct groups – Morning Larks (those who are more productive in the morning) and Night Owls (those who are more productive in the afternoon / evening), exploring when these groups are most productive, how they prefer to work, and how we can adapt our workplace environments to maximise productivity. If you are looking to implement new working methods, environments or technology across your organisation then have a look at our report for interesting insights and tips for success.”

To download “Morning Larks vs Night Owls: Overcoming the UK’s Productivity Challenge”, click HERE