Tuesday, November 1, 2011

End Of Daylight Saving Time Means Tired Employees

I hope you're enjoying these last few days of evening daylight, because they're coming to a screeching halt this weekend. That's right: Daylight Saving Time is ending. It's almost time to turn the clocks back one hour and return to Standard Time. Sigh.

Then it'll be time to wander around for a few days feeling like your whole day is off. You're gaining an hour, but the time change will still mess with your head. What time is it, again? It feels like noon but it's only 11. And it's almost dark on the drive home. Why do I suddenly want to eat dinner at 4:30? Man, I really hate this already. How long until the clocks move ahead again?

If you're a busy manager already planning ahead for next week (and you are, aren't you?), then you might want to take a minute to ponder the effect of the time change on employees. One study estimated that Daylight Saving Time costs the United States $480,000,000 in lost productivity. Talk about burning daylight.

Other studies, meanwhile, have shown that our bi-annual time changes result in more accidents on the job as well as an increased risk of heart attacks. Oh, goodie.

So how can you squeeze more happiness, health and productivity out of next week's time-inspired malaise? Here are five tips:

Plan ahead for confusion. Employees will be dazed, confused and tired on Monday. The first day of the time change isn't the best day to spring a due-by-noon project on a co-worker if you can avoid it. Get as many things off your "to-do" list this week as you can so employees can adjust to the time change without having additional wrenches thrown into their mental spokes.

Don't front load the week. Switch up your staff's routine for a few days, assuming (rightly so) that employees will be a bit out of sorts on Monday and Tuesday because of the time change. Don't front load the week with every action item under the sun; start a bit slower and ramp up as the week goes on. Can you have your Monday 8 a.m. meeting this week instead? Or can you move it to later in the day on Monday, or to Wednesday at 8 a.m.? Your employees will appreciate your attention to detail, and they'll also see you as someone who plans ahead for the small things that impact their minds in big ways. Not a bad way to build your office cred.

Anticipate mistakes.
Time changes can lead to more mistakes at work during the first days of readjustment. How can you minimize the chances of basic mistakes for the first few days of the time change? Every workplace is different, but it's something managers should definitely think about heading into next week to avoid spending Thursday and Friday unraveling the mistakes made on Monday and Tuesday.

Provide snacks. Jump start your team's productivity on Monday and Tuesday with cheap, catered lunches or afternoon snacks such as pizza, sandwiches, ice cream or finger foods such as fruit and veggie trays. Never underestimate the ability of food to boost employees' sour moods. Plus, they'll need the energy boost.

Think fitness. Some of the most bummed-out people on your staff next week will be runners and other people who like to spend a lot of time outdoors after work. They've been able to do their thing for months, but now it's getting dark. And cold. Oh, crap. Now what? If you offer a fitness center on site or allow employees access to one off site, the clock roll back is a good opportunity to remind them about it. If you're feeling generous, you might spring for fitness center passes or purchase a treadmill or two for the office as an early holiday gift. Plus, it's an easy way to promote health and wellness.

See? The time change won't be that bad after all. Now if you could only remember where you put your keys...

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