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Falling Back May Disrupt Your Whole Week

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coffeekai/Getty Images

This Nov. 3, 48 states will turn back their clocks one hour for the end of daylight saving time. Some may refer to this moment as fall daylight saving, but daylight saving time is actually ending. That means it's time to roll the clocks back by one hour, "shortening" the length of the day.

You might think the extra hour of sleep you get in the fall would have a positive effect on employee productivity, but studies have found the opposite to be true. Daylight saving time officially ends at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday in November each year, and while that means theoretically you could sneak in an extra hour of sleep, many people do not.

According to research performed by Yvonne Harrison, a senior lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, most people experience a reduction in the quality of their sleep following the end of daylight saving time. This includes difficulty falling asleep, an increased likelihood of waking up during the night and a tendency to wake up earlier the next morning. The effect is particularly noticeable in people who need less than 7.5 hours of sleep each night or people who tend to wake up early in the morning. 

A disrupted sleep cycle can lead to a less productive workday and, over time, cause significant mental, emotional and physical health problems. So it's important to do your best to adjust your sleep schedule to the time change within the following week to avoid the worst effects of turning the clocks back. 

However, you can breathe a little easier this fall knowing that most of the dangers associated with daylight saving time occur in the spring when we lose an hour of sleep, which can lead to traffic accidents and workplace injuries. 

As reported by CBS News, workplace injuries occur around daylight saving time transitions, because sleep deprivation affects motor skills. CBS News cited a 2009 study, which examined data on over 500,000 mining injuries from 1983 to 2006 and found a 5.7% increase in workplace injuries on the Monday following the time change.

"Many Americans are sleep deprived, and when starting with chronically low levels of sleep, even a small reduction can have serious consequences," said Austin Smith, an economics professor at Miami University's Farmer School of Business in Miami, Ohio in the CBS News article. 

A study that was published in the American Economic Journal analyzed vehicle accidents directly before and after daylight saving time in the U.S. over 10 years, writes Ashley Welch with CBS News.

"The results showed a 6% increase in crashes immediately after people reset their clocks in the spring, which amounted to more than 300 deaths." 

While the end of daylight saving time is no walk in the park, it's really the start of daylight saving time in the spring that you should brace yourself for. 

What exactly is the reason for daylight saving time, when was it started and what can employers do to reduce the risk of accidents in the workplace? Read on for our tips.

Daylight saving time was initially created in the U.S. as a way to conserve energy and coal in 1918, during World War I. It was not until 1966 when the U.S. adopted what is formally known as daylight saving time. Thanks to the Uniform Time Act of 1966, a law that promotes the adoption and observance of uniform time within standard time zones, we have what today is known as daylight saving time in the U.S. The law did not require every single state to apply this method, however. To this day, Hawaii and Arizona do not participate in daylight saving time.

How daylight saving time works is simple. In the spring, we change our clocks by advancing the time one hour. During the fall, the end of daylight saving time, we set our clocks back one hour. The idea behind daylight saving time was to save energy and make better use of daylight.

Daylight saving time is not a uniquely American event. More than 150 other countries and territories have participated in daylight saving time at one point or another. Dozens participate each year, recognizing the energy-saving benefits it offers. Some participating countries today include Australia, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Denmark and New Zealand.

Although traffic accidents and workplace injuries are less likely to occur when daylight saving time ends, accidents happen during the fall transition despite the opportunity for an extra hour of sleep.

Expect your employees to feel fatigued until they fully adjust to their sleep schedule. Use this time to conduct a full safety check of your office, testing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. This is a good time to replace worn artificial lights that could be causing your employees' headaches and eyestrain.

Help your employees mitigate accidents by taking the following precautions:

  1. Go to bed earlier: Encourage your employees to go to bed early on the Saturday and Sunday nights during the transition to help adjust their internal clocks.
  2. Avoid alcohol before bed: Alcohol and a good night's sleep don't mix, according to WebMD. "Alcohol may seem to be helping you to sleep, as it helps induce sleep, but, overall, it is more disruptive to sleep, particularly in the second half of the night," said researcher Irshaad Ebrahim, who works as the medical director of the London Sleep Centre in the U.K.
  3. Clock reminder: Send a reminder for your employees to ensure their clocks are properly adjusted and their alarms are set.
  4. Move hazardous activities: Reschedule hazardous work to later in the week or the following week. If possible, move hazardous activities to the following week once employees have had plenty of time to adjust to the new time change.
  5. Advise employees who drive: Caution staff to be extra alert when driving to reduce traffic accidents.
  6. Adjust delivery schedules accordingly: If you are in a business that relies on a daily delivery schedule, encourage employees to alert you if they don't feel safe driving during the transition, and reschedule deliveries accordingly.

Regardless of the negative effects daylight saving time has, many can agree that in the fall, the extra hour of sleep is welcomed, and in spring, the extra hour of light in the afternoon is pleasurable. However, there are real dangers associated with the transition if employees and employers do not make needed adjustments.

Moving the clocks forward or back by one hour might not seem like a big deal, but the impact lasts far longer than 60 minutes. To be safe and productive at this year's end of daylight saving time, be sure to get some extra sleep, and take your time adjusting to the time change.

Marisa Sanfilippo

Marisa Sanfilippo is an award-winning marketing professional who has more than six years experience developing and executing marketing campaigns for small and medium sized businesses with a focus on digital marketing. After graduating Stockton University with a B.A. in Communications and minor in writing, Marisa worked as a freelance journalist for numerous publications, ultimately earning a position as an e-marketing specialist for a credit union. While in that position, she earned HubSpot's Inbound Marketing Certification and helped build the organization’s digital marketing strategy from the ground up. Her efforts helped lead the credit union to success on and offline including: a 200%+ organic increase in Facebook followers, a sales generating blog, and much more. Later on, she worked on a social media campaign that gained recognition by The Huffington Post.

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