RSS

The Bulletin

Why are Spaniards less productive?

Posting in Cities

Spaniards are constantly tired—a perpetual condition that has led to low productivity, more accidents at work, absenteeism and higher rates of stress.

Their problem? They've been living in the wrong time zone for more than seven decades, according to a Spanish parliamentary report on the country's labor conditions.

Spain sits in the Western European time zone, along with the UK and Portugal. But, thanks to Fascist dictator Francisco Franco's wish for Spain to follow Nazi Germany, the country has observed Central European Time since the early 1940s.

The country also observes daylight savings time from the end of March to the end of September, which pushes it two hours ahead of daylight.

Some weird daily habits have developed as a result. Spaniards have unusually long mornings, eat lunch around 1 p.m. or 2 p.m.—a break that is about two hours long—before they return to work. They eat dinner late and end up sleeping about one hour less than the World Health Organization recommends.

In other words, their work hours match up with the daylight time while their sleep schedules line up with the Central European Time. And that's led to lower productivity than some of their European neighbors (note the graphic from DataMarket below).

"We live in permanent jet lag," said Nuria Chincilla, director of the International Center for Work and Family at IESE business school, reported El Pais.

The report says following this artificial time explains why Spaniards eat and work late and sleep less than their European counterparts. The parliamentary commission responsible for the report recommends pushing Spain an hour into the Western European time zone.

But increasing productivity will involve more than turning the clocks. Spaniards would have to change their work and eating schedules as well as many social customs that have been a part of Spanish culture for more than 70 years, reported El Pais.

Graphic: DataMarket; Photo: Flickr user leoplus

— By on October 1, 2013, 5:09 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure