Workers may sense it intuitively but their mouse clicks prove it: Friday afternoon is the least productive time of the work week.
It’s also when workers make the most typos.
A Texas A&M University team studied this using the computer usage metrics of 789 in-office employees at a large energy company over two years.
“Most studies of worker productivity use employee self-reports, supervisory evaluations or wearable technology, but these can be subjective and invasive,” said co-author Mark Benden, head of the university’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health.
“Instead, we used computer usage metrics — things like typing speed, typing errors and mouse activity — to get objective, noninvasive data on computer work patterns,” he said in a university news release.
The researchers compared computer use across different days of the week and times of the day to see what kinds of patterns emerged.
“We found that computer use increased during the week, then dropped significantly on Fridays,” said study leader Taehyun Roh, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics. “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.”
Computer use fell off every afternoon — especially on Fridays — the data revealed.
“Employees were less active in the afternoons and made more typos in the afternoons — especially on Fridays,” Roh said. “This aligns with similar findings that the number of tasks workers complete increases steadily from Monday through Wednesday, then decreases on Thursday and Friday.”
Researchers said flexible work arrangements, such as hybrid work or a four-day work week, may make for happier and more productive employees.
About 60% of full-time, paid U.S. employees work entirely on site, according to May 2023 data. Most others work remotely or combine remote and on-site work. Many have a compressed week, working longer hours on fewer days.
“Other studies have found that those who work from home or work fewer days have less stress from commuting, workplace politics and other factors, and thus have more job satisfaction,” Benden said. “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.”
The authors said flexible work arrangements may boost a company’s bottom line in other ways, such as reductions in electricity use, carbon footprint and carbon dioxide emissions.
The study was recently published in PLOS ONE.
The U.S. Office of Human Resources has more on remote work.
SOURCE: Texas A&M University, news release, Aug. 2, 2023
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