And now two new forces, Covid-19 and information technology, have made coordination issues less of a concern than ever.
The surprising success of working from home during the pandemic has demonstrated that it’s the work, not the face-to-face time, that counts. For example, if school starts later in the winter, it would prevent working parents from getting to the office at the usual time. In the past, that would have been a career killer. Now, for many, it’s business as usual.
Technology like Zoom, whose rollout has been accelerated by Covid-19, makes it easier for individuals and institutions to set schedules as they see fit, regardless of where Congress pushes the hour hand. With scheduling programs like Doodle, Calendly, and Google Calendar, you don’t even need to know what time zones the people you’re meeting are in.
Rubio and his fellow sun curators are right about one thing: getting ahead and falling back is not a good idea. It induces a stationary jet lag in the entire population twice a year. But if we are going to standardize on a single clock, I would prefer it to be the standard time. To rush permanently, and not return this hour borrowed from the fall, would deprive us of an hour forever, which seems regrettable.
Time zones were introduced in the 19th century for the convenience of railroads. DST was also a command and control invention, implemented during World War I in hopes of saving energy. (Whether it succeeded in doing so is a matter of continuing debate.)
Technology and working arrangements have evolved to the point where we can go back to the pre-industrial era when people’s bodies were synchronized with sunrise and sunset. There are vestiges of this era: Parks and beaches are open from morning to evening. Muslims fast during the day during Ramadan. In Judaism, there are 12 “seasonal hours” of the day which are longer in summer than in winter. And farmers work in the sun when possible – although dairy farmers must milk their cows according to when the milk trucks show upwhich binds them to the relentless metronome of society.
I led part of it by Daniel Hamermesh, an economist who has written extensively on how people spend their time. He is Emeritus Professor at the University of Texas, Austin, and Royal Holloway University, London. He disagreed with the part about people setting their own schedules taking advantage of information technology and new work arrangements. An “overwhelming majority” of production workers have jobs where “their schedules have to be quite rigid and coordinated,” he wrote to me in an email.