Spain Time Zone Change Could Lead To Less Tired Workers, More Family Time

By Josh Lieberman on September 27, 2013 2:41 PM EDT

siesta
Spain is considering switching time zones. It currently follows Central European time, though geographically it should be on Western European time. (Photo: Reuters)

The Spanish government is considering changing their country's time zone, a move they say will increase family time and worker productivity. Although Spain sits in the Western European time zone, the country has observed Central European since 1942, when Spanish dictator Francisco Franco moved the clock an hour forward to align the nation with Nazi Germany. That one-hour discrepancy between the clock and the sun has had a detrimental social and economic effect on the country, according to a parliamentary commission's report [PDF] released yesterday.

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"The fact that for more than 71 years Spain has not been in its proper time zone means...we sleep almost an hour less than the World Health Organization recommends," the commission writes in their report. "All this has a negative effect on productivity, absenteeism, stress, accidents and school drop-out rates." The report also notes that Spaniards sleep about an hour less than the World Health Organization recommends.

Spanish working habits are quirky, something the "incorrect" time zone may be responsible for. The typical work day is split into two parts, with a long lunch in the middle. Workers typically don't leave the office until after 7:00 PM, or work until daylight fades. If it got darker an hour earlier, the thinking goes, companies would be more likely to readjust works schedules, bringing workers more in line with the traditional 9-to-5. That in turn could lead to more family time and an earlier bedtime.

"We drag out the morning and extend our lunchtime," said Carmen Quintanilla, the parliamentary commission's president. "We lose time and have to work more hours in the afternoon. Eating later, we have to start work later, which means we get off work later."

Not everyone is buying the commission's logic, though, arguing that Spain's culture and workers' lifestyles don't have anything to do with being an hour off of the "natural" time. They say it's simply how Spain is, whatever time zone the country is in.

"You can change the hours to Pacific Standard Time and it still won't matter," said Javier Brias of Madrid in BBC's roundup of reader reactions. "The Spanish will always find a way to work less, eat later, party harder. They have built a culture and a reputation around their ungodly hours. And I hardly doubt they will change their lifestyle, and the tourism it generates, because of a technicality."

Eric Jackson of Villar del Arzobispo, Spain, was even more skeptical: "Spanish culture, like every other, is not governed by time zones. It is governed by tradition, their age-old normal way of doing things. This report is nonsense. People eat, sleep and work according to the clock on their wall or the watch on their wrist. They do not eat one hour earlier in winter. God save us from so-called 'experts.'"

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