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Canaries win AC spin award with dark nights productivity survey

Posted on 27 October 2009 | 9:10am

And this week’s Spin of the Week award goes to … drum roll, drum roll … the Canary Island tourism board, Promotur.

If you don’t know why, you probably weren’t concentrating yesterday because you are among the 52 per cent of us – allegedly – whose productivity dropped as we struggled to cope with the dark nights closing in now the clocks have gone back.

Surveys? Don’t you love them? Don’t you love their utter meaningless which nonetheless may conceal a grain of truth?

And what inventiveness for this survey to be done by a tourism board that will be wanting to make us feel in need of the winter light and heat that the Canaries may have to offer.

Why else would they pay for 2000 people to be quizzed on how the dark nights affect their mood and discover that yesterday, lo and behold, was the most unproductive day of the year?

And the grain of truth? Well, I had a fairly substantial pile of work I was hoping to get through yesterday, and substantially failed, as I found myself being distracted by family, visitors, and also allowing the easier and less important work tasks coming to the front of the queue.

You may also have noticed that I couldn’t even be bothered to blog till well into the afternoon, and then it was just a cut and paste from an interview I’d done for a Japanese newspaper. As for my daily exercise dose, I planned on doing ninety minutes on the bike, and stopped for a coffee in Regent’s Park after less than an hour. 

And by last night – a Monday for heaven’s sake – we found ourselves doing what we normally only do at weekends and on holidays, namely watching a DVD – and of a film we had seen before, Slumdog Millionaire. Better second time around by the way.

So by the time I got to my diary, the most interesting observations I had to make were what a spectacularly unproductive day I had had, and how much I wanted to go to India again.

Good job I’m my own boss. 14 per cent of people, says the Canaries’ survey, are so unproductive on post clocks going back Monday that their boss tells them off. And eight per cent admitted to calling in sick because they were so depressed at the thought of going to work knowing it would be dark by the time they left for home.

Meanwhile, according to Dr (not sure what type) Christian Jessen (authoritative-sounding Scandinavian name) of Channel 4’s ‘Embarrassing Illnesses’ (what?) ‘The Winter Blues are no joke. They can affect your work performance by making you unable to concentrate and carry out your normal roitine, your relationship by affecting your libido and your social life by making you feel irritable and anti-social.’

Better all bugger off to the Canaries then.

Only today, I feel more productive already. Done my morning emails. Begun to clear yesterday’s backlog. Done the blog, almost. Got a few meetings, a Leukaemia Research do tonight, and hey, I’m over it. Loving the autumnal colours rather than focussing on the pending late afternoon gloom. It’s All In The Mind, to quote a good book.

  • Alan Quinn

    Alastair, re the DVD watching and your love of France have you seen “36, Quai des Orfèvres”? Not a family film but quite superb. Also I found “Tell No One” a great film , lots of twist and turns in the plot that only become apparent at the end.
    On the Winter doom aspect I find January and February the most gloomy, I wish I could bugger off to the Canaries but alas I can’t afford it.

  • Brian Hughes

    The Spin of the Week award could possibly go to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. David Aaronovitch exposed its survey methods in the Times on April 7th this year after it published a report purporting to show that a quarter of teachers “had seen pupils being physically violent, either towards the teacher or another student”. The story was trumpeted by the BBC and several newspapers as further evidence that the country’s going to the dogs.

    Except that the survey was so flawed it should never have been given the proverbial oxygen of publicity.

    The Association was at it again yesterday with a report claiming that “30% of school staff have been the subject of a false allegation of misconduct by a pupil”. I wonder if it was based on the same sloppy methodology viz. send out an unsolicited email and assume that the replies come from a representative sample of the profession.

    Trouble is, journalists are either too busy or too lazy to verify stuff that comes to them on fancy press releases especially if the story suits their bosses’ desire to fill the world with gloom!

    I have no doubt that much of what passes as “news” is from similarly biased and/or unreliable sources.

    As Voltaire’s Candide concluded (more or less, my 18th century French isn’t up to much) we’d do better to ignore such stuff and instead cultivate our gardens…

  • Hugh Mason

    We all deserve the occasional quiet day though my sense of your quiet days is that they are the same as many people’s busy days. Today is a beautiful autumn day and I was cheered by your morning musing. I come here for politics but the odd day off from that is no bad thing either

  • Kam Ham

    Small world – I watched Slumdog last night too. Then I did a search for it on twitter … there are loads of us watching it! Agree better second time around and it was pretty damned good the first time. The acting of the kids is superb

  • Em

    We don’t change the clocks until next week in North America and I completely missed the change that first year I lived in London. I arrived 90 minutes late to a brunch on the Sunday and late at work for two days until my boss figured out what was going on.

    Not so unproductive as brazenly late.

    Loved the tone of the blog today. You’re good when you’re funny.

  • Michael Taggart

    That’s weird, I had the exact same survey – with the same results – through on email from a recruitment firm. Their survey was also, coincidentally, helpful to their business, as they explained: “We can help you get out of the rut by finding a new job”.

  • Trevor Malcolm, Portsmouth Hampshire


    Those mischievous Canaries, now. First it’s swine-flu the NHS claims is a-spreading, now it’s spin-doctoring to encourage foreign tourism; shameful opportunists, these spin-doctors

    Your blog, (27 October 2009), claims darker nights affect the mood of what’s left of the work-force, the productivity of those with jobs slumping a massive 52%

    Where do we turn for answers? Solutions to the age-old challenges of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or TAT (Tired All the Time disorder, a revised, spinned-up medical acronym for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)

    The “good book” you recommend – All in the Mind – left me clueless how to cope with a little-understood, but widespread condition that inflicts sufferers with little choice but non-functioning in winter, some days with little option but to hibernate under their duvet

    Sir, you are blessed, I must protest, if you escape “Winter SAD” whereas by now, your predecessor as Mind Champion of the Year, the eminent and authoritative, Dr Liz Miller already has her “light-box” set up and functioning. This way, Lizzie too, is still capable of functioning, thank you

    You quote in your blog, (see opposite), Dr Christian Jessen, claiming “Winter Blues are no joke” – believe me, he ain’t kiddin’

    Winter Blues’ clinical symptoms include prolonged sleep, often lasting all day. Carbohydrate cravings, eg for starchy food, sweeteners – cravings so overwhelming – the like of which you would have to experience yourself, to believe possible. A crash in energy, usually during late afternoons, that leave the sufferer incapable of even standing up, akin to a huge and sudden drop in a patient’s blood pressure level

    To read a list of medical symptoms related to such mood disorders, feels like an exercise in how many different, inhumane ways doctors can find to insult patients

    One reason such patients don’t make impassioned activists and march on Parliament in protest at lack of funding for research towards effective treatment, is their condition leaves them physically non-functioning, as if lying in a coma

    Inert, but with no possibility of future action. Although it’s currently hip and fashionable with both major political parties to label them as “ … feckless, lazy, “Disability Benefit” fraudsters … “

    A search enquiry on Labour’s beloved NHS website resource,, for righteous advice and “Counsel of Perfection” (The Bible: Matthew, chapter xix, verse 21), predictably proved patchy and misleading in theory and would be largely useless in practice

    So, any positive news? Well, the above clinical indications do predict some likelihood of good response to the alerting effects of Photo-Therapy. That will include sitting at least twice daily in front of a SAD box, I’m afraid, folks

    This field is the specialism of Dr Ian Rodin, forward-thinking Professor of University nearby, published co-author of the book entitled “Psychiatry, an illustrated text” and my Consultant and mentor for over eight consecutive years

    Ongoing clinical tests, begun over a decade ago, suggest Brite-Box wake-up lighting, during winter, mimics the higher quality of summer daytime light levels and perhaps those exposed to such treatment, learn to compensate for and eventually adjust to the extreme and variable colour temperatures between summer and winter light levels

    The only “good book” worth recommending is the seminal novel on the subject, entitled “Darkness Visible” by the late William Styron,(1925-2006). Read that, instead

    An autobiographical novel, short in length, but rich in reassurance and courage for the despairing. Fewer pages: no need, the elegaic novel says “a lot in a little” about the evils and bleakness of depression, still the least understood condition human beings can experience during a lifetime

    Trevor Malcolm
    Portsmouth, Hampshire