Workplace Statistics: 15 Research-Backed Facts

Workplace Statistics: 15 Research-Backed Facts

The latest employee productivity statistics make the case for improved work/life balance.

Workplace Statistics: 15 Research-Backed Facts
p>It’s a myth that the average employee is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes per day. What’s true is that the shift to remote workplaces has turned our notions of productivity upsidedown. Here’s what the latest research says about increasing net productivity in an ever-evolving landscape.

The Big Picture

  • Key elements of productivity include employee well-being, workplace flexibility, and strong worker retention strategies.
  • Cultivating supportive work environments lends itself to higher employee output.
  • COVID-19 rapidly changed expectations for employee experience, and workplaces will continue to evolve post-pandemic.

1. Full schedule flexibility increases average employee productivity by 29%

There’s been much debate about the traditional 8-hour workday. In recent years, some have argued for 5-hour workdays. Just a few years ago, a popular survey claimed office workers are only productive for exactly 2 hours and 53 minutes per day. (This myth has been debunked, and the original survey is no longer published.)

It’s more likely that productivity is subjective to each individual worker. Workers who have full control over their schedule report 29% higher productivity. They also report a 53% greater ability to focus when compared to those who have no schedule flexibility. Of course, flex hours aren’t realistic for every working environment.

For the rest of us, scheduling around peaks in our circadian rhythm may be a way to boost productivity. Science shows that we’re the least productive around 3:00 PM and 3:00 AM. Conversely, we’re most alert at 12:00 PM and 6:00 PM.

Workplace culture tends to favor early risers. That makes sense, since these folks are likely to reach peak productivity by lunchtime, while self-identified “night owls” feel like they’re playing catchup. That said? Night owls may just reach their peak productivity later in the day.

No matter how much flexibility your workers have, making an effort to meet their schedule preferences is likely to yield greater output. Avoid scheduling night owls first thing in the morning, and never schedule an early riser to work late nights.

Notes and Audit Reports

2. Implementing a company culture increases productivity

Employee engagement measures the commitment a worker has to their organization. It’s a critical factor in 11 business outcomes, including customer loyalty, profitability, and average productivity.

Bad news for employers in the United States: research indicates that only 33% of employees are engaged at work. However, that number is more than doubled for exceptional workplaces. The key difference? Exceptional workplaces prioritize internal culture.

When an employer has strong workplace culture, their company values guide their business decisions. That often means prioritizing employee well-being over short-term profits. It also means investing in employee experience, or how your workers experience the workplace.

For example, businesses that have continued to prioritize flexible working arrangements in the wake of the pandemic reap the benefits of increased employee engagement and, by extension, productivity. (We’ll dive more into these productivity statistics later on in this article.)

These employee engagement statistics indicate that, when workers trust their employer, they care more about the work they do. That makes them more productive workers. Good vibes = good work.

Beyond being sure your business practices what they preach, good relationships between co-workers also increase productivity via employee engagement. An employee’s relationship with their manager may be the most important. How you relate to your direct reports accounts for 70% of their engagement at work.

Work friends are also valuable assets. In fact, when the pandemic caused mass isolation, work friends became more important than ever — especially for remote workers. Those who have a workplace bestie reap these benefits:

  • Boosted engagement
  • Boosted output
  • Fewer work-related accidents
  • More creativity
  • More fun

3. Entrepreneurs and business owners work more than their employees

Those heading up a business work more. This may be due to the entrepreneur struggling to keep the business going, but may often be attributed to addiction to work. And, in a changing economic climate, it’s getting worse.

Previous research reported that 19% of entrepreneurs worked more than 60 hours per week. The vast majority — 63% — work somewhere between 40-59 hours per week. In other words, overtime is the norm for those leading businesses. The tendency toward overtime may be one reason why there’s an increase in “productivity paranoia.” Though 87% of hybrid employees report being productive at work, 85% of their bosses don’t believe them.

It’s also harder for business owners to unplug. Another survey reports that, while on vacation, 67% of small business owners check in on work at least once per day. And work/life imbalance may have a trickle-down effect, which brings us to our next point…

4. The United States has the highest rate of workplace burnout

Burnout is on the rise for workers across the globe, but it’s the worst in the United States. While the rate of burnout is 40% for the global workforce, it’s 43% for workers based in the United States. Burnout rates are also increasing quarter over quarter, according to research from Future Forum.

It’s even worse for business executives at organizations of all sizes. The same research shows that, from 2021 to 2022, business leaders experienced a 20% decline in work/life balance. They’re also experiencing 40% more stress and anxiety and a 15% decline in workplace satisfaction.

The World Health Organization defines workplace burnout as an occupational phenomenon. Symptoms include fatigue, feelings of “mental distance” from one’s work, and reduced job performance. While not a medical disorder, burnout may play a role in developing more serious conditions like heart disease.

5. Office workers spend an average of 50% of their time on repetitive tasks

One possible explanation for an increase in workplace burnout? Too many copy/pastes. In fact, depending on their role, an office worker could spend as much as half of their workweek engaging in repetitive tasks. 

While digital workplaces have enabled a lot of flexibility, not all offices have streamlined their workflows. This may be especially true for small businesses. Workfellow collected 4 million data points from enterprise businesses with an average of 20 employees and found some staggering statistics:

    • Workers spend 8.5 hours per week doing work like file organization, sending emails, and checking CRM platforms.
    • An additional 10% of workweeks are spent on manual data entry into business applications
    • 50% of total work time is spent on repetitive tasks, including updating spreadsheets and word documents.

On average, an office worker may perform 1,000 copy/pastes per week. That’s a lot of CTRL + V!

6. 92.6% of employees have experienced physical, psychological, or behavioral symptoms of poor mental health

According to recent research, 92.6% of employees have experienced mental health symptoms that have impacted their work. Though many of these symptoms existed pre-pandemic, the trend is still climbing upward: a 2017 study from Deloitte reported that 84% of employees had adverse mental health symptoms. In other words, our collective psychological well-being is continuing to decline.

If anything, this statistic shows how much of a concern employees’ health should be. The fact that the majority of employees have shown symptoms of poor mental health is enough reason for you, as an employer, to keep an eye on and even improve your employees’ mental health. There are various ways to go about this.

h2>7. 60% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck

More than half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. But — believe it or not — this number is actually an improvement: in 2017, it was reported that 78% of workers lacked sufficient cash savings. Still, debt management continues to be top of mind, with 70% of credit card holders taking measures to manage payments. That number holds across income levels, suggesting that high cost of living and inflation are taking a toll on consumers.

Americans are living paycheck to paycheck

8. Remote work improves employee engagement and company culture

During the pandemic, remote and hybrid work arrangements became the new normal. Despite some organizations demanding employees return to the office, it’s likely that working from home will continue to be the norm. That’s not just due to worker pushback — there are quantifiable benefits to remote flexibility.

Research from Gallup indicates that employees are 8% more engaged when working remotely. They report that employee engagement is 37% in remote or hybrid environments. Meanwhile, employees working exclusively on-site are only 29% engaged.

The option to work remotely also improves company culture. A different survey found that remote and hybrid workers are 52% more likely to report an improvement in company culture over the past 2 years. These workers specifically note that flexibility is the #1 factor driving this increase.

It’s been established that increased employee engagement = increased business profits. As mentioned earlier, company culture also plays a key role in high-performing companies. So, if you want to fast-track growth, giving your workers the option to work from home may be the ultimate hack.

9. Workplace recognition improves productivity and reduces absenteeism

Give credit where credit’s due. Recognizing the accomplishments of your employees is more than just good manners. It actually makes your workforce better.

In fact, making a point to give workers their due can lead to business gains. Research on workplace recognition shows that, when employees strongly agree they’ve received recognition, there is a measurable increase in productivity.

According to Gallup, “On average, organizations that double the number of employees who strongly agree they have received recognition see [a] 9% increase in productivity, 22% decrease in safety incidents, and a 22% decrease in absenteeism.” Pointing out the success of others also makes you more likable!

10. High performers are up to 800% more productive

It’s no surprise that being able to attract (and retain) high talent leads to better business outcomes. What’s surprising is that the productivity gap widens based on the complexity of your role. That’s one reason why niche high performers compete so well, even in a tight labor market.

Research indicates that, for a low-complexity role, a high performer is 50% more productive than average. But if you’re extremely gifted at in a high-complexity role, you’re 800% more productive than your co-workers with average skills. In other words, your productivity increases exponentially as roles become more complex.

That means that a small team of highly-talented workers can massively outperform larger teams of average talent. If you’re lucky enough to hire a top performer in a complex role, retaining them should be a major priority.

11. Learning opportunities would make 74% of employees more productive

Want a more productive staff? Invest in upskilling. Data indicates that increased investment in learning and development leads to better business outcomes.

According to one survey, 74% of employees say opportunities for professional development would increase their productivity. It would also increase employee engagement (72%) and happiness (69%). Ultimately, it influences them to stay at their job longer (66%).

That said? The type of professional development matters. Only 24% of employees enjoy large-scale trainings. Roughly 2/3rds of employees prefer to learn on the job, and 80% say they retain knowledge better with hands-on training.

Not only that — offering educational support helps attract more competitive talent. 65% of workers say upskilling programs are an important factor when deciding to take on a new job.

12. Digital distractions cost 581 hours per worker annually

Digital environments have made remote work possible. But — no surprise to anyone with WiFi — they’re also home to a host of distractions. Similarly, reliance on technology enables “productivity theater,” or busy work that isn’t actually productive.

In 2018, 36% of Gen Z and Millennial workers admitted to spending 2 or more hours per day using their smartphones for personal activities. Now, one of the latest workplace productivity studies indicates that each worker loses an average of 581 hours annually to digital distractions. 581 annual hours is equivalent to 28% of working hours, and an average of $34,448 in paid time.

For knowledge workers, a lack of online self-control is cited as the biggest cause for distraction. But it’s not the sole reason for productivity loss.

Management style and digital workplace culture can also be counterproductive sources of digital interruptions. Since digital distraction is defined as anything that takes attention away from a primary task, online communications that expect an immediate response are also a source for distraction; meetings, workchat pings, and certain emails all qualify.

13. 41% of organizations use DEI initiatives to reduce employee turnover

Want to retain good workers? Invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. According to a 2022 survey, 41% of the top global companies have DEI programs to increase employee retention and engagement.

Creating diverse and inclusive working environments is likely to become even more important in the coming years. 52% of Gen Z and Millennial workers are dissatisfied with their employers’ DEI efforts. These younger cohorts represent the majority of the working population, and are also some of the most difficult to retain.

14. Happy employees have 12% higher productivity levels

Want more productive employees? Make them happy.

A new study has found that happiness and productivity go hand-in-hand. Economists at from the University of Warwick conducted randomized trials on the effects of mood elevation on piece work. As a control variable, all participants received compensation for completing a task in the experiment.

They found that short-term boosts to happiness made employees 12% more productive. They also found an inverse effect: reminding participants of sad life events made them 10% less productive. Evidentally, when workers are happier, they work more effectively, increasing output while maintaining quality.

The researchers were able to influence participants’ moods by showing a 10-minute clip of a funny movie, or providing candy bars. They also note that, for ethical reasons, “[I]t is not feasible in experiments to induce huge changes in the happiness of people’s lives.” Employers, however, may be in a position to influence bigger changes to happiness.

Even when a pay raise isn’t possible, offering greater schedule flexibility and prioritizing good communication have been shown to keep the average employee happy.

15. Only 2.5% of people can multitask effectively

The vast majority of us should think twice before listing “the ability to multitask” as a skill in a cover letter. Mounting evidence demonstrates that multitasking actually decreases productivity.

In fact, a famous study found that only 2.5% of us are “supertaskers.” Supertaskers are able to effectively complete more than 1 task at a time. For the rest of us, our abilities significantly worsen when we divide our attention across multiple tasks.

Workplace Productivity in 2023: The Takeaway

Managing employees isn’t easy. As a manager, entrepreneur, or C-suite executive, it’s important to be strategic. The latest productivity in the workplace statistics indicate that balancing employee wellness with demands for output is the best way to create a productive work environment.

Workplace productivity may also be subjective. For example, even though remote work may increase productivity, those who work at a hospital or restaurant can offer limited work-from-home opportunities (if any at all). While the average worker may be motivated by workplace recognition or learning opportunities, others will only do more when paid more.

Being a strategic leader involves possessing knowledge of what is and what is not possible within your industry, as well as the difference between a trend and proven research. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has turned many long-held assumptions upside down, workplace productivity statistics have also been in flux.

But one thing remains certain: demanding your employees work more without making internal changes to your organization will result in a loss of productivity.

How OnTheClock Can Help

OnTheClock is a simple, web-based time clock designed to increase workplace productivity. Your employees clock in and out. You get simple reports on who’s in, overtime, and PTO. Our software also offers scheduling features to accommodate both hourly and salaried employees.

With OnTheClock, there’s no productivity theater and no privacy invasions. We’re a people-first company that believes tracking time should increase transparency between workers and their managers. Our time cards are calculated automatically and easily integrate with your favorite payroll software, saving you hours of manual calculations each pay period.

Our software is beloved by accountants, freelancers, independent contractors, and owners of businesses (big and small). Accounts with less than 3 employees are always free, and everyone can try OnTheClock for 30 days at no cost.

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OnTheClock Team

OnTheClock is the perfect app for business that want to keep track of their employees' time without spending hours doing it. With OnTheClock, you can forget about the old way of doing things.

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