Official science: People do less, make more mistakes on Friday afternoons

Why 'dont deploy on Frday' is a thnng

Boffins have spent two years monitoring the computers of office staff at a large Texas energy concern and found that workers did less and made more mistakes in the afternoon – particularly on Fridays.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, comes from authors Taehyun Roh, Chukwuemeka Esomonu, Joseph Hendricks, Anisha Aggarwal, Nishat Tasnim Hasan, and Mark Benden.

It describes how the academics, hailing from the Texas A&M School of Public Health, recorded the activities of 789 in-office staff volunteers – back when people showed up for work, from January 1, 2017, through December 31, 2018 – using a repetitive stress monitoring application called RSIGuard.

The software, from Cority, gathers lots of data to assess workers' unhealthful ergonomics, including: active hours, mouse hours, keyboard hours, words typed, words typed AM, words typed PM, typos, typos AM, typos PM, mouse clicks, mouse distance, and mouse scrolls.

"Most studies of worker productivity use employee self-reports, supervisory evaluations or wearable technology, but these can be subjective and invasive," explained Mark Benden, professor and head of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, in a statement to the Texas A&M news service.

"Instead, we used computer usage metrics – things like typing speed, typing errors and mouse activity – to get objective, noninvasive data on computer work patterns."

Benden and colleagues crunched the numbers and discovered what many office workers will find unsurprising – particularly IT workers wary of Friday deployments.

"Our findings demonstrate that computer output metrics significantly decrease on Fridays compared to other weekdays, even after controlling for total active hours," the US study concluded.

"Additionally, we found that workers' output varied depending on the time of day, with reduced computer usage observed in the afternoons and a significant decrease on Friday afternoons."

For example, the mean number of words typed and typos was as follows:

  • Monday – 427/145.7
  • Tuesday – 442.3/140.9
  • Wednesday – 444.6/140.3
  • Thursday – 443.2/140.9
  • Friday – 372.2/138.6

With regard to typos, the day of the week didn't matter as much as the time. The study found that "on average, people made significantly more typos in the afternoon than in the morning (mean difference 4.86) across all days of the week, after adjusting for the number of words typed."

The authors suggest their results can help employers explore the benefits and drawbacks of in-office, hybrid, and at-home work arrangements, which affect workforce sustainability. They note that a four-day workweek is common in Spain, and is practiced at Unilever in New Zealand, Shopify in Canada, and Microsoft in Japan, which Redmond claims has boosted productivity by 40 percent.

The study makes the case that "work-life balance is directly linked to organizational and social sustainability, and many developed nations' governments have called for strategies to achieve a better balance between work and life." ®

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