Learning the productivity lesson

Last year a student started a petition to change the start of the school day by an hour as she felt a ‘pressure’ to get to school at 9am.

She quoted scientists in a 2015 BBC article who said that starting school at 10:00am could have huge benefits for teenagers as adolescents in particular have a late-running biological rhythm. She also cited schools in countries such as Finland that are performing better than those in the UK despite starting later and not giving their students homework.

And it seems that many people agreed with her, as the petition received almost 200,000 signatures with advocates claiming that teenagers are tired due to having to wake up very early to get to school, and that the Government should require secondary schools to start later, which would lead to increased productivity at school.

This was debated in Parliament in February this year and for many the response was disappointing: “The Department has no plans to require secondary schools to start later. The decision on when to start the school day lies with individual schools.” It did however start the conversation around how the traditional school or working day may not suit everyone and could affect their productivity.

We recently commissioned some research which contributes to these discussions. Our study, “Overcoming the UK’s Productivity Challenge”, identified two distinct groups – Morning Larks (those who are more productive in the morning) and Night Owls (those who are more productive in the afternoon / evening) and we explored when these groups are most productive, how they prefer to work, and how we can adapt our workplace environments to maximise productivity. Whilst we surveyed working adults, we believe that the same principles apply.

Whilst it seems that most students are likely to be Night Owls – their teachers are not – as our research found that more than half of those working in the education sector say they’re most productive first thing in the morning and 84% of this group often come into work early. So, it seems that supporting the differing needs of both Larks and Owls in the education environment is key and, whilst the Government has no appetite to legislate for later start times, the sector should consider using the classroom design to help provide a boost and ensure both teachers and students reach their full potential.

For example, our education solutions focus on maximising daylight with large windows which frame the best views and ensure that there are no dark corners at any time of the day. Where natural daylight is not readily available, we implement lighting solutions to replicate it and our spaces promote wellbeing by reducing air and noise pollution. In simple terms we design and build environments to help both teachers and students thrive.

To download “Morning Larks vs Night Owls: Overcoming the UK’s Productivity Challenge”, click here

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