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Study Reveals When Workers are at Their Least Productive

In this photo illustration a woman appears to be stressed or dealing with mental health issues as she sits in front of a laptop computer. (Photo Illustration by Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new study by researchers at Texas A&M University found that workers are less productive and more prone to mistakes on Friday afternoons.

The researchers looked at the computer usage metrics of 789 in-office employees at a large energy company in Texas over a two-year period — January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2018.

“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 head of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. “Instead, we used computer usage metrics — things like typing speed, typing errors and mouse activity — to get objective, noninvasive data on computer work patterns.”

The team then compared computer usage patterns across different days of the week and times of the day to see what kinds of patterns emerged.

“We found that computer use increased during the week, then dropped significantly on Fridays,” said Roh, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. “People typed more words and had more mouse movement, mouse clicks and scrolls every day from Monday through Thursday, then less of this activity on Friday.”

In addition, Roh said, computer use decreased every afternoon, and especially on Friday afternoons.

“Employees were less active in the afternoons and made more typos in the afternoons—especially on Fridays,” he said. “This aligns with similar findings that the number of tasks workers complete increases steadily from Monday through Wednesday, then decreases on Thursday and Friday.”

Researchers said that flexible work arrangements, such as hybrid work or a four-day work week, may lead to happier and more productive employees.

Other studies have found that those who work from home or work fewer days have less stress from commuting, workplace politics and other factors, and thus have more job satisfaction,” Benden said. “These arrangements give workers more time with their families and thus reduce work-family conflicts, and also give them more time for exercise and leisure activities, which have been shown to improve both physical and mental health.”

Not only that, but flexible work arrangements could boost the bottom line in other ways.

“And now,” Benden said, “the findings from our study can further help business leaders as they identify strategies to optimize work performance and workplace sustainability.”