Sunday, April 4, 2004

More light, more work


Daylight-saving builders' friend; others grill out

By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

David M. Ott has had a couple of decades to get accustomed to daylight-saving time, and so far, it's not working out for him.

"Personally, I hate the change," said Ott, president of Beechgrove Construction Inc., a custom-home builder in Hamilton County's Miami Township. "I have a hard time readjusting. I'm 57 and go to bed at 8 p.m.

"My partners and all my staff have a hard time. It's just hard getting reaccustomed."

The onset of daylight-saving time, which pushed the clock from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. in an instant this morning, means the work day for some will stretch an hour later into the evening as some companies take advantage of the light.

On the downside for productivity: The time change can lead to mood swings, cranky co-workers and biological clocks that need to be reset.

Pete E. Kauffman, president of Kauffman Jacobs Co., a construction management firm based downtown, said earlier starting times let contractors cram more hours into the workday.

"With daylight-saving, the dirt-work guys are there 12 to 14 hours a day, and they're trying to get as much work in as they can," Kauffman said.

"The equipment is paid for, so if you get more work per day it's like free use of the equipment."

Builder Tim Hensley, president of Hensley Homes and president of the Greater Cincinnati Homebuilders Association, agrees that an extra hour is a big deal for contractors.

Ohio and Kentucky builders usually suffer through a challenging winter construction season with many days cut short because of severe weather.

Daylight-saving time arrives as shorter days of winter turn into the longer days of spring and summer. When spring and daylight-saving time arrives builders are ready to rip into their work backlog.

"The days are longer, and if you throw an extra hour on top of it, it's a big, big benefit to people in our industry," Hensley said.

Let there be light

Daylight-saving time has an on-again/off-again history.

European countries and the U.S. first embraced daylight-saving time as a way to save energy during World War I, and the concept was enacted into law in 1918, though that law was later repealed.

It was reinstated for World War II as "War Time," but from 1945 to 1966 local communities decided for themselves whether they would observe it. In 1974 President Nixon signed into law the Daylight-Saving Time Energy Act, but only for a 15-month period.

In 1986, it was formalized under the U.S. Department of Transportation to begin the first Sunday in April and end the last Sunday in October in areas that do not specifically exempt themselves.

Elaine Hollensbe, an assistant professor of management in the college of business at the University of Cincinnati, can see the connection between more light and productivity - researchers have found that people tend to be more depressed in societies where there is less light.

But she's not sure the effect would flow over into offices, as few bosses are likely to be wandering the halls announcing: "Let there be light. Let there be more work."

"I suspect that people who would squeeze more work out of minions would do it regardless of whether it was light out or not," she said.

"That's a manager-style thing. Maybe daylight-saving time gives them more rationalization for doing it."

She suggested that some workplaces could make use of the light through flex-time.

"If workplaces allow people to capitalize on those light hours through flexible scheduling, it might motivate people to work harder or be more engaged when they are at work."

Shifting time zones

For global companies, the changing time can present modest challenges to project timing, says Sumit Sicar, Armstrong distinguished professor of communications, technology and management at the Richard T. Farmer School of Business at Miami University.

"These companies have groups in many countries that work on projects. Say there's work during the day in the U.S. It gets handed off to somebody in London, handed off to somebody in Tokyo," he said.

"Suddenly the U.S. goes on daylight-saving time. That can cause some minor problems."

But the time change is a boon for sales at Harrison-based JTM Food Group, where 300 people are employed.

An hour of morning light shifted into the evening means an extra hour each day for home grillers to burn burgers on the back-deck barbecue.

That's not lost on JTM executives either.

"Folks are going to be more likely to be barbecuing out back if it's light out," said Jack Maas Jr., vice president of sales at the company, which posted $60 million in revenue last year.

"At least you can see what you're cooking."




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