When, during the standard work day, work week, and work year, are employees at their most productive? One company took a look at the issue and tried to come to some conclusions based on quantifiable data.
The study looked at Redbooth, a project management software company, and examined an anonymized data set of 1.8 million projects and 28 million discrete tasks. It concluded that the peak productive time on any given day is 11 a.m., the most productive day is Monday, and the most productive month is October. At the other end of the spectrum, workers completed the least tasks after 4 p.m., the least productive day is Friday, and the lowest percentage of tasks were completed in January.
You can’t draw really meaningful conclusions from one study of one company in one industry, of course, and it would be interesting to know how those 28 million separate “tasks” were defined. (Is logging on to your computer a “task”? How about submitting your time records to your boss, or sending a quick status update email versus a full-blown report?) Nevertheless, the study seems to confirm what should be obvious — productivity ebbs and flows during the work day, work week, and work year.
I’m also convinced based on my own work history that productivity is uniquely individualized, and varies a lot based on the circadian rhythms, personality types, and social mores of individual workers and individual workplaces. I feel like I am at my most productive first thing in the morning, when I can get in early and immediately knuckle down to work and there are fewer phone calls and work flow interruptions and distractions; I’m not a big late-night worker except in emergencies. Other people get to the office later, like to do some visiting to start their day, and seem to pick up steam as the day goes on and the night hours arrive. Averages tend to smooth out the real, material differences between people’s work habits and practices.
The one conclusion from the study that most surprised me was the productivity variance between seasons and months. I would have bet that winter was the most productive month — in the Midwest, at least. When your alternative is raw, cold weather, a bustling day at the office looks pretty good by comparison.