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Designing clockworked motions


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That wall clock, right in the middle of the office. Is it not a sign of the laziness? It tells the employees when the lunch and tea breaks happen. It gives them licence to take a little time off. It becomes a reason you leave your seat.

Moreover, in today’s companies where fewer office spaces are being flooded by natural sunlight, artificial light keeps burning through the day with the same intensity, breaking down the concept of time. But, understanding how the human brain functions, and evaluating the role of the wall clock within that perspective and gives this “symbol of laziness” an interesting twist.

Leveraging knowledge from the world of neurology in understanding this concept leads us to the bio clock. This bio clock situated within the brain of each person is what controls the body operation that ebbs and flows in a circadian rythm. This clock is the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) part of the brain and controls all other different circadian aspects of your body, including the rest/active cycle – sleeping, working, lunch, and others.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the SCN is very sensitive to natural light. It uses this natural light to set itself, and is connected directly to the optic nerves in the eye. That’s how the SCN gets light data to tell the time of day and the seasons.

For example, let’s consider the sleep/wake cycle. The SCN gets light data from the eye sensors, learns the length of day, and passes the information to the pineal gland, which secretes melatonin. Lack of sunlight triggers the pineal gland to produce more melatonin. The hormone acts on the hypothalamus and other brain structures to lull us into longer slumber to match a longer night. That’s why we tend to sleep longer in the winter: less light, more melatonin, more sleep.

In windowless offices, the same intensity of light shines all day. In the absence of a proper measurement of time past in the day, the SCN is confused, and it has no way to tell the brain when to feel hungry, when to feel tired and when to take rest. Of course, over a longer period of time, this affects health and productivity of the employee.

This is where that wall clock comes in. It is designed to work as a quasi circadian clock, which non-consciously tells our brain that we’ve been out for too long, it’s time to take a break, or that it is lunch time. By just silently being there, the clock reduces the impacts of the travails of daily office life and improves efficiency.

Who’d have thought?

The next time you get into a 3PM slump, be wary. Robert Goulet might just be lurking somewhere.


#clock #concepts #neurology

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