Daylight Savings Time costs the United States $480,000,000

On Monday, the entire RescueTeam dragged their collective backsides into the office a little bit late.  Weekends are sometimes challenging to recover from in terms of work schedule– but Daylight Savings Time Monday is especially painful.  Towards the end of the day we all collectively felt the day was short– and, of course, it was.  We’d reset our clocks but hadn’t quite managed to reset to the new schedule.  Which raised the question:

If we lost a chunk of our morning to Daylight Savings Time, how many other people did?  How much time was lost when people failed to reset their alarm clocks as well as their internal clocks?

It turns out that the answer is this: The average knowledge worker in our growing database spent about 16 minutes less time this past Monday than previous mondays.  Assuming there are about 36,000,000 knowledge workers in the US (the first number I could find by Googling), and assuming that they cost about $50/hr ($50,000 per year x 2 divided by about 2,000 work-hours in a year), we can say that 16 minutes is worth about $13.30 (yes, fully loaded cost is often calculated with a 2x).  Multiply that by our 36,000,000 knowledge workers and we get a cost of this convention:

$480,000,000

No idea how this affects other US workers.  And we haven’t checked if people are back to fighting trim the next day– so we suspect the cost is a bit higher.

Very soon we’re going to start releasing the RescueTime True Attention Report, detailing surprises like this one as well as a true understanding of how people really spend their time, on and off the web.  If you’d like to get the report when we release it, be sure to subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed.   If you have data that you’d love to see in a report like this, drop us a line.  Please note that the report will NEVER EVER show any individual data (anonymized or no)– just information like, “The average Outlook user spends X minutes in Outlook”.

RescueTime is a tool that helps businesses and individuals understand how they spend their time and attention– and helps them spend it more effectively.  For more information on our business offering, head to www.rescuetimeteam.com.  To check out our individual offering, head to www.rescuetime.com.

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Tony Wright

Currently: UI, web products, and web marketing freelancer and founder of RescueTime.com Past: Director of Product Development at Jobster, owner/founder of Jobby (sold to Jobster), owner/founder of a 20ish person web consultancy (sold).

28 comments

  1. Ah well, the switch back the other way probably makes up for it. We do save energy with DST… And that probably out-weighs the rantings of the crybaby that wrote this piece. Besides it seems the writer wasted time calculating, searching and writing this article when more productive work could have been done. Lastly, everyone has been tired at one time or other. Shall we blamed them too for some colossal amount of money lost too? Oh, wait that would be wasting time again. Now get back to work slackers…

  2. Also, having #2 relief takes up time, and would normally be about 10 minutes a day. Let’s set a punishment on #2 toilet visits!

    Averagely, for a person being sick one day /year this would be $1*avg cost per person*avg # of people working that are sick on a particular day. Whoo, let’s quit getting sick!

    The real problem is: people reading this issue when they should be at work!

    Bottom line, the # of hours we work in the dark vs. the happiness it brings working NOT in the dark are unquantifiable right now, so it still is a good idea.We could change the clock on friday or saturday, but somehow we want to have this type of glitch in the boss’s time.

  3. As an early riser, I despise the early DST and I maintain what we may be making up in the early evening in energy savings we’re losing in the mornings. Better to leave the switch when it was when the sun is up earlier.

  4. Interesting data! I have to think that the DST effect is a drop in the bucket compared to other factors though. Do you have stats for Superbowl Monday? Also, I’ve read that March Madness is a huge productivity sink.

  5. Most knowledge workers lives revolve around meeting deadlines, I wonder how much sense the above calculation makes as long as they meet their deadlines.

  6. “Reset their internal clocks”

    Unless you have been going to bed and getting up at the same time for like 25 years, a one hour change in time should not have made much difference. Where I am at, everyone was on time, and there was no unusual grogginess.

  7. Arizona has realized that daylight savings is a joke and did away with it, why can’t the other states make that realization too?

  8. What about the extra time spent at work after the workers have adjusted to the new schedule, but not adjusted to the change in daylight?

    I’ve found that after daylight saving I end up staying at work longer because I think there is more time left in the work day. Over the weeks following daylight saving this adds up to *way more* than 16 minutes… probably at least 16 minutes a day for several weeks.

  9. “The average knowledge worker in our growing database spent about 16 minutes less time this past Monday than previous mondays.”

    Spent 16 minutes less time not doing what? Do you mean across the board for whatever the major task these people are typically focused on Monday mornings? It would be interesting to see how DLS affects people on a strict 9-5 vs a flex schedule as well.

  10. So, much as I don’t like daylight saving time, and think it does have a very real net cost to the US, the calculations that were used to come up with 480,000,000 have one glaring assumption that I think dwarfs the issue. That is, that working 16 minutes less actually has a net reduction in productivity.

    I suspect that for knowledge workers even working 8 hours a day is a net loss over working say working 7 hours a day. Personally, I find that not only am I less efficient as the day goes on, but I also start making work for myself. The longer I work in a day also tends to effect my minds ability to concentrate on future days, and I find myself more and more distracted the more hours I try to work in a week.

    So, I would say be careful when you spout numbers that rely on an assumption that every hour is equivalent. It could be that on average, those 16 minutes of down time created a weekly efficiency gain that more than offset the time lost.

  11. What about the “other” daylight savings time? You know, the one that gives us another hour of sleep. What is productivity for the workday proceeding that occasion? We must dilute the cost of this day by the benefit of the other. I know that these intricate assumptions can go back and forth so my point is likely mute. Either way, I find the underlying point of the blog interesting so thanks for the stat.

    -A. Johnson

  12. I don’t agree that writing this article is a waist of time. If you look at the raw numbers: The average worker in this database logged 16 “idle” minutes more in an 8 hour period on this date than on an average Monday. I also think that the argument if this time was productive or not is irrelevant. Even if this was time spent just to gather your thoughts in an effort to stay organized, it is still 16 minutes more time spent in that day.

    Do you guys have the data from the last time change? I would be interested in seeing what the difference in data is between this week’s push forward and the last push backwards.

  13. We actually tested the theory that “fall back” would actually make up for the time. It turns out that THAT DST has below average logged time as well (compared to avg. Mondays). Double the evil!

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