This campaign is not just about saying “no to that kind of thing” – it is about discussing a genuinely progressive alternative to the out-dated logic of Daylight Savings.
What’s so special about 9AM?
The evidence used in support of changing the clocks to maximise “accessible daylight” are based on a key assumption: our waking and working patterns. People mostly don’t get up until 6:00 at the earliest, but go to bed as late as 22:00 – based on whatever timezone is officially in effect at the time. This is, presumably, because most offices insist on exmployees working some minor variation of “9 to 5”. But if we’re all getting up “too late”, as Daylight Savings proponents tell us, why not let us get up a little earlier?
Let’s face it, it’s not really necessary for every office in the country to be fully staffed for exactly the same period of the day. In fact, it’s not even true that they all are – some have 1 hour lunch breaks and work to 17:30, some have longer hours through the week and POETS day on Fridays.
Proposal: Allow All Office Workers Flexible Hours
While it’s not completely trivial to keep track of flexible time, it doesn’t need to be that complex, either: a few “core” hours each day, when everyone’s expected to be around unless specifically arranged, so meetings can be arranged more easily; and then a certain number of hours per day, or maybe per week, that each employee must log.
Obviously, “all office workers” is quite a broad category, and some organisations won’t feel it’s appropriate. I’m not saying all employers should be forced to offer flexi-time – just strongly encouraged.
The end of Rush Hour
There are plenty of positive side effects to this proposal. Consider, for instance, the nightmare of Rush Hour, and the complexities it adds to planning transport infrastructure. While we can’t expect journeys to be evenly spread across the whole day, a greater variety of start times would spread the load, and a greater choice would allow people to pick their own time for navigating bottlenecks.
And how about work-life balance – if someone’s hobbies don’t quite fit with their work routine, wouldn’t it be great if they could adjust their routine slightly? And if you’re coming back to a young family, maybe you can arrange your time to see them more – or perhaps less, to avoid arguments with your teenage daughter 😉
Where’s the Extra Daylight?
Once we’ve encouraged employers to give them the choice, we can encourage individuals, with well-reasoned arguments, to get up earlier and enjoy the dawn light. This is probably the hardest part, but given how confused people are about Summertime already, we’d at least have simplicity on our side. I actually saw one mother commenting that her children appeared to be “ready for summer time”, because they were waking up earlier – then the clocks changed, and, magically, they, um, carried on waking up earlier. And at least, if people don’t want to get up earlier, we’re being honest in our campaign, not trying to coerce them by changing the official meaning of “9AM”.
Obviously, there are people whose lives aren’t timetabled by office rules; but in a lot of cases, these people aren’t really affected by messing up the timezones anyway. A lot of retail, and manufacturing, is run on complex shift patterns, sometimes covering 24 hours of the day; changing the clocks makes very little difference one way or another if your hours are 12 till 8. Smaller shops tend to open something along the lines of the traditional 9 to 5, but since this already excludes office workers (apart from those on lunch breaks), I don’t see why they’d be that bothered, either – in fact they might find they can make more profit from people on their way to and from work.
Won’t somebody think of the children?
Among the categories of people who do work regualr hours are schoolchildren, and their teachers. Now, obviously, it’s not practical to give 12-year-olds an individual choice of school hours. But why not let schools have different hours, in different parts of the country, and at different times of year. Not only can I think of no better way to encourage the habit of making the most of sunlight than saying “for the summer term, school will start at 8, and finish at 14:30”, but this would deal with one of DST’s frequently raised problems: in Scotland, the days are shorter, so putting the clocks forward (by which we mean, of course, getting up earlier) means going to school in the dark. Interestingly, RoSPA themselves suggest Scottish schools could counteract the effect of SDST by making their schooldays start later  RoSPA FAQ: RoSPA suggests we adopt Single/Double Summer Time (SDST). What about Scotland and the far north of England, which gets dark earlier in winter and stays light later in summer? .
Savee Your Own Daylight
Moving to a fixed time zone, but encouraging flexible schedules allows all the benefits claimed for Daylight Savings. Want to avoid a cricket match running out of light? Start it earlier! Want people to visit a park after work? Encourage them to leave work early for the day! If, on the other hand, you want extra custom in the mornings, you can encourage them to tarry on their way to work – why assume that one size fits all?