Employees are less active and more likely to make mistakes on afternoons and Fridays. In fact, Friday afternoon is the lowest point of worker productivity, a new study discovered. Researchers at Texas A&M University found evidence that the "Friday work blues" is a real thing. In fact, this suggests that flexible work schemes.
While previous studies have looked at workers’ productivity, they have largely worked with methods such as diaries, self-reported surveys and performance appraisals. These methods are all subjective. They can be affected by biases and mood or people simply misremembering what they do. Instead, the researchers have now relied on non-invasive and objective computer usage metrics, such as typing speed.
The researchers looked at the metrics of almost 800 in-office employees at a big energy company in Texas. The analysis was carried out over a two-year period from January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2018. They then compared metrics across different days of the week and times of the day.
Less activity on Fridays
Researchers included participants from different office positions, from admins to engineers. They found that the mean for total words typed was 427 on Monday. This figure increased by 3.45% increase on Tuesday and carried out relatively unchanged until Thursday. However, the biggest change came on Friday: a 19.1% decline. Furthermore, people made significantly more typos in the afternoon than in the morning across all days of the week – especially on Friday afternoons.
“We found that computer use increased during the week, then dropped significantly on Fridays,” Taehyun Roh, study author and professor at Texas A&M, said in a press release. “People typed more words and had more mouse movement, mouse clicks and scrolls every day from Monday through Thursday, then less of this activity on Friday.”
Researchers say their study findings are important. They suggest that business leaders can rethink current work arrangements to ensure the best use of the most productive days in the workweek. As of May, about 60% of full-time workers in the US worked entirely on-site. The remainder either worked remotely or had a hybrid arrangement, surveys showed.
Flexible work arrangements, such as hybrid work or a four-day workweek, could help mitigate the negative effects of long workweeks and promote better employee productivity, the researchers suggested. For example, employers could be more open to allowing employees to telecommute on Fridays or even give them Fridays off.
In fact, previous studies have found remote work reduces stress and provides employees with greater control over their work schedule, which helps reduce mental fatigue and burnout and increases job satisfaction. Remote work also has environmental advantages, reducing CO2 emissions, pollution and transportation fuel consumption.
“These arrangements give workers more time with their families and thus reduce work-family conflicts, and also give them more time for exercise and leisure activities, which have been shown to improve both physical and mental health,” Mark Benden, head of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, said in a news release.
However, this study has several limitations. The data was collected from white-collar workers in a single corporate energy firm, and it may not be appropriate to generalize these findings to other fields of work. Also, other activities not seen in the study could alter productivity, such as workers participating in meetings or planning on Fridays.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.