Workday shrinks by nearly an hour, study shows

ActivTrak reveals a 15% reduction in the average workday, highlighting efficiency and disengagement

Workday shrinks by nearly an hour, study shows

A study by ActivTrak, a workforce analytics company, reveals a significant decrease in the average workday length over the last three years, with workers now logging about four hours less per week than they did in 2021.  

According to the ‘ActivTrak Productivity Lab 2024 State of the Workplace report,’ the average workday has shrunk by 15 percent, or 47 minutes, moving from nine hours and 52 minutes at the start of 2021 to nine hours and five minutes by the end of 2023.  

This analysis drew on data from over 135,000 users across 958 companies, encompassing nearly 97 million hours of activity, primarily from employees in sectors such as finance, professional services, insurance, and legal services.   

The study observed a minor decrease in both focus and productive time across the three-year span, with a slight increase in time allocated to collaboration, such as messaging. Despite the reduction in workday length, efficiency remained consistent.   

ActivTrak data highlighted in The Wall Street Journal shows that the average worker now ends their day around 5 p.m. from Monday to Thursday, with an early sign-off at 4:03 p.m. on Fridays, marking an hour's reduction from early 2021. 

This trend of shorter workdays continues amid efforts to encourage a return to office work, even as the availability of remote job positions diminishes. The shift towards slightly shorter days might help in maintaining productivity levels, even when accounting for commute times.   

An increase in productivity was noted in the first half of 2023, with employees spending eight minutes more per day on productive activities, as measured by engagement with apps for “focused, collaboration, and multitasking activities.”  

For an organization with 1,000 employees earning an average of $60,000, maintaining early 2023 productivity levels could equate to gaining the equivalent of 18 additional employees and $1.1 million in savings.   

However, the report also indicates a rise in worker disengagement, with 20 percent of employees being classified as disengaged—defined as spending more than 75 percent of time in a state of underutilization, or below the daily hours set by employers for productivity.  

This is an increase from 12 percent in 2021. Conversely, the percentage of employees at risk of burnout due to overutilization has decreased to just 7 percent.   

For an organization with 1,000 employees, the report calculated that workplace imbalance, resulting from either overworking or underworking staff, could lead to a potential loss of $2.1m and the equivalent of 70 employees.   

A Gallup study from January estimates the annual cost of the burnout and disengagement crisis at $1.9tn a year, as workers feel increasingly disconnected from their employers and unclear about their expectations.  

The study also notes that managers are reporting higher levels of burnout amidst layoffs and team restructuring.