It must be some kind of universal law that every year around about now you will have a conversation with someone who is furious about Daylight Saving Time – someone who thinks it is a needless complication, a throwback to a time when Scotland’s population was employed in agriculture and is entirely irrelevant to the rhythms of modern life.
Usually, this person has accidentally woken up an hour “later” than they planned on Sunday.
Daylight Saving Time (DST) as a concept was officially brought into use in Ontario, Canada, in 1908 to make better use of daylight. The first country to use DST country-wide was Germany, as a way to reduce the amount of artificial light used during the First World War. Since then, the reasons for using DST (or not) have become as varied as the countries using it. Some countries have never used DST, while some have and have since stopped. Given the lack of much Caledonian daylight in the depths of winter, it’s no surprise that we Scots have stuck doggedly with the concept.
We all focus on what that means for ourselves – an hour less in bed; kids’ sleep patterns all over the place; forgetting to change our clocks, watches etc.
What are the reasons for keeping daylight saving? There are still advantages to having daylight saving, such as economic benefits due to people spending more time outside and increased energy efficiency as we use less artificial light, although that one is often debated.
However, there is also a cost to keeping daylight saving: there is evidence that shows an increase in road accidents in the period after DST changes because people are tired after losing an hour of sleep, international teams can experience diary co-ordination issues from being spread across multiple timezones with different DST rules, and of course, being an hour late for work.
And it is those who have to work over multiple time zones, whose customers or suppliers operate in faraway continents, for whom the change of the clocks can create a big headache.
Did you know that New York already put their clocks forward on 12 March, meaning that for the past few weeks they have only been four hours behind us, rather than the usual five? In Sydney, Australia, they don’t change theirs till 2 April – and they put theirs back then (because they’re heading for winter). And just to confuse things further, some countries, such as Japan and South Africa, don’t change at all.
So if you’re one of those people who ritually complains about having to remember to put your timepieces forward by an hour, spare a thought for those trying to pull together diaries in New York, Sydney and Tokyo for their weekly sales call. Suddenly the benefits of the extra hour of daylight in the evenings from now till October will be all the more appealing.
Billy Jones is Lead Developer at Edinburgh-based Appointedd, which is behind the world’s first cross time zone technology