Article: Too many errors in your work? Must be Friday afternoon!

Performance Management

Too many errors in your work? Must be Friday afternoon!

Earlier research hinted at a connection between time of day and productivity, but this study offers the first concrete evidence of the phenomenon.
Too many errors in your work? Must be Friday afternoon!

New research from Texas A&M University has confirmed what many office workers have long suspected: productivity takes a nosedive on Friday afternoons.

By tracking the computer activity of nearly 800 employees over two years, researchers found a clear pattern of declining activity and increased errors as the week progressed, culminating in a productivity low point on Friday afternoons.

The science behind the Friday afternoon productivity slump

The study, published in PLOS ONE, used a novel approach to measuring worker productivity. Instead of relying on self-reports or invasive monitoring, researchers analysed objective computer usage metrics such as typing speed, errors, and mouse activity. This allowed for a more accurate and unbiased assessment of work patterns.

“This aligns with similar findings that the number of tasks workers complete increases steadily from Monday through Wednesday, then decreases on Thursday and Friday,” said Dr. Mark Benden from the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, one of the study’s co-authors.

The data revealed employees were less active on their computers and made more typos as the week progressed. This trend was most pronounced on Fridays, particularly in the afternoons.

While previous research has suggested a link between time of day and productivity, this study provides the first hard evidence of the phenomenon.

Read More: Are your productivity metrics outdated?

What can employers do?

The Friday afternoon slump can have a significant impact on productivity and profitability. A study by research firm Basex found interruptions and distractions can cost up to 2.1 hours of productivity per day. When employees are less focused and more prone to errors, the risk of costly mistakes increases.

The good news is that employers can take steps to mitigate the Friday afternoon slump. Here are a few strategies to consider:

1. Flexible work arrangements

Allowing employees to work from home or adjust their hours can improve work-life balance and reduce stress, both of which can contribute to increased productivity. A 2023 study by Owl Labs found employees who work remotely at least some of the time are 22% more likely to be happy at their jobs.

2. Shorter work weeks

A four-day work week has been shown to increase productivity and job satisfaction in several studies. In Iceland, a trial of a 35-hour work week resulted in increased productivity and well-being among participants.

Read More: The case for a four-day work week

3. Short breaks throughout the work day

Short breaks throughout the day can help employees stay refreshed and focused. A study by the Draugiem Group found the most productive employees take 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work.

4. Positive work environment

A positive and supportive work environment can boost morale and engagement, leading to increased productivity. A study by the University of Warwick revealed happy employees are 12% more productive.

Read More: Think your job is pointless? You're not alone

Beyond the Friday afternoon slump

While the Friday afternoon slump is a common phenomenon, it’s important to remember that not all employees are affected equally.

Some people may naturally have higher energy levels in the afternoon, while others may struggle to stay focused after lunch.

Employers should be mindful of individual differences and offer a variety of work arrangements to accommodate different preferences.

Employers can help their employees perform at their best, regardless of the day of the week or time of day, by creating a flexible and supportive workplace.

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Topics: Performance Management, Life @ Work, #Productivity

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