A comprehensive study conducted by Texas A&M University’s School of Public Health reveals compelling evidence of declining employee productivity, particularly during afternoons and Fridays.
The research, which involved 789 in-office employees from a large energy company in Texas, employed innovative computer usage metrics to objectively track and analyze employee activity over a two-year period.
The findings indicate a consistent decline in computer activity as the workweek progresses, with Fridays registering the lowest performance levels. Afternoon hours on all workdays also exhibited decreased computer usage, leading to higher rates of typos. By using noninvasive metrics such as typing speed, errors, and mouse activity, the researchers were able to avoid subjective self-reports and wearable technology, making their findings more reliable.
“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.”
Moreover, implementing these flexible arrangements can not only enhance work-life balance and well-being but also offer sustainability benefits, including reduced electricity usage, carbon footprint, and carbon dioxide emissions. Business leaders can leverage these insights to optimize workplace performance and foster a more sustainable work environment, benefiting both employees and the organization as a whole.
“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.”
The study’s authors recommend considering flexible work arrangements, such as hybrid work or four-day workweeks, as potential solutions to improve employee satisfaction and overall productivity.