Afternoon Slump and Friday Fatigue Impact Worker Productivity, Study Finds
A recent study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University has revealed that worker productivity tends to dip in the afternoon, with a particularly noticeable drop on Friday afternoons. The researchers utilized a unique data collection method to confirm the longstanding belief that workers are less active and more prone to errors in the afternoon, especially on Fridays.
The study was led by Drs. Taehyun Roh and Nishat Tasnim Hasan from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, along with their colleagues from the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, and a graduate student from the Department of Health Behavior. The team analyzed the computer usage metrics of 789 employees at a large energy company in Texas over a two-year period from 2017 to 2018.
Unlike previous studies that relied on subjective and potentially invasive methods like employee self-reports or wearable technology, this study utilized objective data derived from computer usage metrics such as typing speed, typing errors, and mouse activity.
The researchers then compared these computer usage patterns across different days of the week and times of the day. They discovered that computer use increased during the week but saw a significant drop on Fridays. People typed more words and had more mouse movement, clicks, and scrolls from Monday through Thursday, but this activity decreased on Friday.
Interestingly, the study found that computer use decreased every afternoon, particularly on Friday afternoons. Employees were less active in the afternoons and made more typos—especially on Fridays. This trend aligns with similar findings that the number of tasks workers complete increases steadily from Monday through Wednesday, then decreases on Thursday and Friday.
In light of these findings, the researchers suggest that flexible work arrangements, such as hybrid work or a four-day work week, could potentially lead to happier and more productive employees. As of May 2023, about 60 percent of full-time, paid workers in the U.S. worked on-site all of the time. The remaining employees either work remotely or have a hybrid arrangement involving a combination of remote and on-site work.
A number of employees also adhere to a compressed workweek in which they work longer hours on fewer days. Previous studies have shown that those who work from home or work fewer days experience less stress from commuting, workplace politics, and other factors, leading to higher job satisfaction.
These flexible arrangements provide workers with more time for their families, reducing work-family conflicts. They also allow for more time for exercise and leisure activities, which can improve both physical and mental health. This could be an excellent opportunity for those in the standing desks/office health industry to promote products like the best sit stand desk or an electric height adjustable standing desk, which can further enhance the health benefits of flexible working arrangements.
Apart from improving employee well-being and productivity, flexible work arrangements could also have other beneficial effects such as reductions in electricity use, carbon footprint, and carbon dioxide emissions.
These findings can help business leaders identify strategies to optimize work performance and workplace sustainability. With the right approach, it is possible to turn Friday afternoons into a productive end to the workweek rather than a slump in productivity. The study is published in PLoS ONE.