Forcing staff to start work before 10 a.m. is tantamount to torture and is making employees ill, exhausted and stressed, an Oxford University researcher has claimed.
Before the age of 55, the circadian rhythms of adults are completely out of sync with normal nine-to-five working hours, posing a “serious threat” to performance, mood and mental health.
Dr. Paul Kelley, of Oxford University, said there was a need for a huge societal change to move work and school starting times to fit with the natural body clock of humans.
Experiments studying circadian rhythms have shown that the average 10-year-old will not fully focus on academic work before 8.30 a.m. Similarly, a 16-year-old should start at 10 a.m. for best results and university students should start at 11 a.m. Dr. Kelley believes simply moving school times could raise grades by 10 per cent. He was formerly a head teacher in Tyneside, where he changed the school start time from 8.30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and saw the number of top grades rise by 19 per cent.
Similarly, companies who force employees to start work earlier are likely to be hurting their output, while storing up health problems.
“This is a huge society issue,” Dr. Kelley told the British Science Festival in Bradford. “Staff should start at 10 a.m. You don’t get back to (the 9 a.m.) starting point until 55.
“Staff are usually sleep deprived. We’ve got a sleep-deprived society. It is hugely damaging on the body’s systems because you are affecting physical emotional and performance systems in the body.
“Your liver and your heart have different patterns and you’re asking them to shift two or three hours. This is an international issue. Everybody is suffering and they don’t have to.”