Clocking Off Early Average Workday Shrinks By 37 Minutes

Recent data from the ActivTrak Productivity Lab uncovers a compelling trend: a reduction of 37 minutes in the average workday. This subtle yet impactful shift draws attention to the delicate balance between productivity and well-being, underscoring its significance for both organizations and wellness professionals who champion the holistic welfare of the workforce.

This article dissects the data, offers potential benefits and challenges associated with the 37-minute shift, and provides implications for employers and decision-makers.

Pressed for time? Here’s a quick summary…

  • Shorter Workdays: The average workday has decreased from 10 hours and 37 minutes to 10 hours flat. Primary drivers of this shift include the return of commutes for in-office workers, better time management, and logging off early during to accommodate summer schedules.
  • The Upside: Shorter workdays can function as a countermeasure against overutilization, encourage employees to be more productive, and spark a positive shift in employee well-being.
  • The Downside: Shorter workdays also pose risks of work compression, a drop-off in quality or output, plus challenges for coordination across workers in different time zones.
  • Employer Implications: Navigating this trend while maintaining performance requires evenly distributing workloads, redefining productivity monitoring, prioritizing employee feedback, and embracing data-led methods for consistent benchmarking.

The Data Behind The 37 Minute Reduction

ActivTrak’s study analyzed 38 million work hours from 134,260 employees between January 2022 and June 2023. The findings revealed:

  • The average workday has reduced from 10 hours and 37 minutes to 10 hours.
  • Productivity, focus, and collaboration levels remained flat despite the shorter workday.
  • 5% more employees were healthy with the transition to a shorter workday.
Factors Fueling The 37 Minute Shift

Factors Fueling The 37 Minute Shift

Factors contributing to the trimmed workday include:

  • The reintroduction of commuting time with the return to the office
  • Time management and work-life balance improvements
  • Accommodation for seasonal summer schedules

Some employers have adjusted summer schedules or added seasonal benefits for their employees. Consulting firm KPMG, for example, implements biannual weeklong breaks that align with the summer and winter seasons, supplementing standard vacation allowances. It also offers a summer jump-start program, allowing employees to log off early on Fridays from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Wellable has taken a similar approach by introducing half-day Fridays throughout the summer months.

These built-in breaks and seasonal perks exemplify an organizational commitment to enhancing mental health—a particularly vital endeavor as employees navigate the aftermath of the pandemic, inflation, and other stressors.

“We want them to just go and really disconnect. We know disconnection is a big part of being able to stay charged over a longer period of time. Productivity is really a function of health and capability. Both of those things have to be true in order to be able to optimize performance and productivity.”

Jason La Rue, National Managing Partner of Talent & Culture at KPMG

The Upside Of Shorter Workdays

The Upside Of Shorter Workdays

Employee well-being has taken a hit over the past year, with less than half (40%) of workers saying they feel holistically healthy. Financial and mental health have experienced the sharpest declines: while 83% of employers believe their workforce is financially well, only 55% of employees agree. Furthermore, nearly a third of workers remain overutilized with days exceeding 10 hours, compounding fatigue and amplifying mental health concerns.

According to researchers, concluding the workday earlier has:

  • Functioned as a countermeasure against overutilization.
  • Sparked a positive shift in employee well-being.
  • Had no impact on productive time (in hours) quarter over quarter.

As organizations continue seeking a balance between productivity and employee well-being, a shortened workday stands as a testament to progressive and adaptable work cultures.

The Downside Of Shorter Workdays

The Downside Of Shorter Workdays

As workdays shrink, one concern is the risk of work compression, where tasks may become rushed, and quality could suffer. This could have a counterproductive effect and lead to heightened stress levels among employees. Additionally, the perception of work’s value within shorter timeframes might negatively influence motivation and job satisfaction.

The effects of shortened work time may also ripple across borders, posing challenges for coordination. With differing time zones and schedules, maintaining seamless collaboration becomes more intricate.

Mastering asynchrony is vital for effective internal communication. Leveraging technology is powerful for facilitating collaboration, connection, and learning despite an employee’s geographical location or preferred work hours. 

Implications & Strategies For Employers

As employers navigate this shift, they can apply strategies that not only align with evolving employee trends and preferences but also uphold performance standards.

1. The Perks Of Evenly Distributed Work

The Perks Of Evenly Distributed Work

Transitioning to a shortened workday provides an opportunity to enhance well-being by evenly distributing workloads. This approach addresses burnout risks and promotes fairness among employees, ensuring everyone has comparable bandwidth and the chance to finish early if tasks permit.

By thoughtfully assigning tasks and responsibilities, organizations can prevent overutilization and underutilization of skills. This not only creates a healthier work environment but also nurtures a sense of appreciation and value among employees, resulting in increased engagement and satisfaction.

2. Harness Productivity Benchmarks To Their Full Potential

Harness Productivity Benchmarks To Their Full Potential

Employees may believe their value within a company is based on the number of hours they work, hindering them from taking necessary breaks and leading to burnout. Instead of focusing on time, use quality of work as a measure of success. This mindset enhances productivity, promotes work-life balance, and adapts to a shortened workday.

Additionally, organizations can customize productivity benchmarks based on specific job roles, projects, and industry benchmarks. Avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach ensures a more meaningful evaluation of performance.

Amidst these shifts, employers can implement gradual adjustments to productivity benchmarks rather than sudden and drastic changes. This allows employees to acclimate to new expectations without feeling overwhelmed, contributing to a seamless and successful implementation.

3. Prioritize Employee Involvement

Prioritize Employee Involvement

Prioritizing employee involvement is central to the success of reshaping the work landscape. Instituting regular feedback mechanisms enables individuals to contribute their perspectives to the development and refinement of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). This can be executed through monthly feedback sessions or digital platforms for anonymous suggestions. A collaborative approach ensures that KPIs remain closely aligned with the evolving nature of work, individual roles and responsibilities, and employee needs.

Additionally, integrating periodic wellness and work-life balance evaluations into the framework demonstrates a genuine commitment to fostering a healthy work environment. By factoring in employee well-being metrics, organizations signal their dedication to supporting a balanced and thriving workforce, enhancing job satisfaction and employee retention.

4. Benchmark Consistently

Benchmark Consistently

Consistent benchmarking is a critical practice for organizations seeking to optimize their operations. By embracing data-led methods, employers can track progress, identify trends, and make informed decisions based on reliable insights.

Tailoring benchmarking strategies to fit industry nuances and organizational scale is equally vital. This ensures that benchmarking efforts align with the unique challenges and opportunities presented by the specific industry and the size of the organization. It enables employers to refine strategies effectively, driving sustainable growth and success.

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