Workers are less productive and make more typos on Friday, study finds
A recent interdisciplinary study conducted at the Texas A&M School of Public Health used a novel method of data collection to demonstrate that employees are indeed less active and more prone to errors in the afternoons and on Fridays, with Friday afternoon representing the lowest point of worker productivity.
The study was authored by Drs. Taehyun Roh and Nishat Tasnim Hasan from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, as well as Drs. Chukwuemeka Esomonu, Joseph Hendricks, and Mark Benden from the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, and graduate student Anisha Aggarwal from the Department of Health Behaviour.
Over a two-year period, from January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2018, the researchers examined the computer usage metrics of 789 in-office employees at a large Texas energy company.
"Most studies of worker productivity use employee self-reports, supervisory evaluations, or wearable technology, but these can be subjective and invasive," said Benden, professor and department head of environmental and occupational health. "Instead, we employed computer usage metrics, such as typing speed, typing errors, and mouse activity, to obtain objective, noninvasive information on computer work patterns."
The team then compared computer usage patterns across different days of the week and times of the day to identify any emerging patterns.
Roh, an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, remarked, "We discovered that computer use increased during the week and decreased significantly on Fridays." Monday through Thursday, people typed more words and engaged in more mouse movement, mouse clicks, and mouse scrolls than they did on Friday.
In addition, Roh reported that computer usage decreased each afternoon, particularly on Fridays.
"Employees were less active in the afternoons and made more typos -- especially on Fridays," he said. This is consistent with findings indicating that the number of tasks completed by workers increases steadily from Monday to Wednesday, and then decreases from Thursday to Friday.
What should employers take away from this? Flexible work arrangements, such as hybrid work or a four-day work week, may initially result in happier and more productive employees.
60 percent of full-time, salaried workers in the United States worked exclusively on-site as of May 2023. The remaining employees either worked remotely or had a hybrid arrangement that combined remote and on-site work. In addition, many employees work longer hours but fewer days per week.
"Other studies have found that those who work from home or work fewer days experience less stress due to commuting, workplace politics, and other factors, and are therefore more satisfied with their jobs," said Benden. "These arrangements provide workers with more time with their families, thereby reducing work-family conflicts, as well as more time for exercise and leisure activities, which have been demonstrated to improve both physical and mental health."
In addition to enhancing the bottom line, flexible work arrangements may also reduce electricity consumption, carbon footprint, and carbon dioxide emissions.
"Now," said Benden, "the findings from our study can assist business leaders in identifying strategies to optimise work performance and workplace sustainability."
Journal Reference: Taehyun Roh, Chukwuemeka Esomonu, Joseph Hendricks, Anisha Aggarwal, Nishat Tasnim Hasan, Mark Benden. Examining workweek variations in computer usage patterns: An application of ergonomic monitoring software. PLOS ONE, 2023; 18 (7): e0287976 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0287976
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