The average workday shrank by nearly an hour over the last 3 years, study finds

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The average workday shrank by nearly an hour over the last 3 years, study finds
Workers are putting in fewer hours a week at work, though many are increasingly disengaged.Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images
  • Daily work hours have decreased by nearly an hour since 2021, potentially impacting the economy, per a new study.
  • Despite shorter workdays, efficiency remains flat and time spent collaborating has increased.
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Workers are now putting in about four hours less a week compared to 2021.

A new report by ActivTrak, a workforce analytics company, found that between the first quarter of 2021 and the third quarter of 2023, the average length of the workday fell by 15%, or 47 minutes. The analysis found that the typical workday spanned nine hours and five minutes at the end of 2023, compared to nine hours and 52 minutes at the beginning of 2021.

The analysis looked at over 135,000 users across 958 companies, looking into nearly 97 million hours of data. The study largely analyzed employees in white-collar professions like finance, professional services, insurance, and legal services.

The analysis found employees finished their tasks in less time, with slight declines over the three-year period in focus time and productive time. There was a slight increase in time spent on collaboration, such as messaging. Efficiency overall remained flat even as days shrank by nearly an hour.

ActivTrak data shared with The Wall Street Journal showed the average worker logs off at about 5 p.m. on Monday through Thursday. On Friday, workers sign off at 4:03 p.m., about an hour earlier than at the start of 2021.

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This comes amid a continued push to get people back in the office as remote job openings dwindle. Though many now have to factor in commute times, slightly shortened days could keep workers more on track.

Employees spent eight minutes more per day being productive, as measured by time spent engaging with apps for "focused, collaboration, and multitasking activities," in the first half of 2023 compared to the second half. If an organization has 1,000 employees making $60,000 on average, it would gain the equivalent of 18 additional employees and $1.1 million in savings if the level of productivity in early 2023 was maintained, the report found.

Though workers are putting in fewer hours, they're also increasingly disengaged. The report found that 20% of employees were disengaged, which it defines as spending more than 75% of time in a state of underutilization, or under the daily number of hours employers set for workers to be productive. The percentage of disengaged employees was just 12% in 2021. Still, fewer employees — just 7% — were at risk of burnout due to overutilization.

The report calculated that for an organization with 1,000 employees, having a workplace imbalance that pushes staff out by either overworking or underworking them could amount to a potential loss of $2.1 million and the equivalent of 70 employees.

A Gallup study from January estimated that the annual cost of the burnout and disengagement crisis is $1.9 trillion a year as workers increasingly feel disconnected from their employers and less clear about their expectations. Managers are also reporting heightened levels of burnout amid layoffs and team restructuring.

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Are you working fewer hours this year compared to previous years? Reach out to this reporter at nsheidlower@businessinsider.com.

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