If you’re like most working professionals, you probably get the feeling that something’s “off” with your productivity. You might feel like you aren’t getting enough done every day, or have a recurring suspicion that there’s some secret holding you back from being more productive on a regular basis.
The trouble is, most of us don’t know where to begin—either with measuring our personal productivity, or quantifying what “productivity” is.
It’s one thing to define and consider productivity based on your own feelings; you might “feel” more productive on Wednesday than you feel on Monday, or notice your team working harder after lunch than immediately before it. But it’s much more effective and reliable to use objective statistics to fuel your perspectives—and drive the strategies you need to make a positive change.
That’s why I’ve compiled these 51 important productivity statistics, to help you learn more about the nature of productivity in the workplace, and hopefully, discover new ways to improve it.
1. Productivity is increasing, overall, by 2.9 percent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm business sector labor productivity increased by 2.9 percent in the second quarter of 2018, the last period on record. Total output increased by 5 percent, while total hours worked increased by 2 percent. This is likely due to the increasing sophistication and presence of technology, especially automation, which has the power to make virtually any white-collar job easier.
2. Productivity has been increasing steadily since 2011, at an average of 3 percent annually. This growth rate isn’t new; we’ve been seeing an average annual growth rate of 3 percent for the past 7 years or so. Chances are, we’ll see steady increases in total productivity as long as technology keeps advancing—in other words, there’s no real end in sight.
3. People consistently overestimate their own productivity by 11 percent. A Qualtrics study found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that Americans tend to estimate their personal productivity as being 11 percentage points higher than the actual average American worker. This is likely due to the overconfidence effect, or our intrinsic tendency to overestimate our own abilities. It’s the same reason most people rate themselves as “better than average” drivers, despite this being a statistical impossibility. Use this information when examining your own productivity; don’t automatically assume that you’re better than average at your own job. If you truly want to be better than average, you probably need to feel like you’re actually working hard at it.
4. The average worker receives 121 emails per day. As of 2018, the average office worker gets 121 emails every day. This is interesting for several reasons. First, it shows just how important email is to the average employee; it’s our primary means of communication in the workplace, and the medium we use for both internal and external communication most consistently. It also illustrates just how much of an impact email could have on our total productivity; for example, if each email takes just 1 minute longer to read and respond to, that could result in 2 hours of lost productivity every day. Or, more optimistically, if you can shave the time each email takes you by 1 minute, on average, it could save you 2 hours a day.
5. You spend more than half the workday checking email. According to one study, the average employee spends 4.1 hours a day checking their email, which falls in line with the 121-emails-per-day statistic I just covered. That’s more than half the average workday spent reading, writing, and managing emails. Unless your role has something specific to do with communication, I doubt you consider that your most productive work. The right tricks and hacks can cut this time in half without sacrificing your communicative potential—but most employees aren’t aware enough to make the effort to improve.
6. 96 percent of employees believe unnecessary emails are a waste of time. You know there’s a problem when 96 percent of the workforce agrees on it. We’ve all gotten unnecessary emails from bosses and coworkers, keeping us up-to-date on a project that we were never supposed to be a part of, or including us on a lengthy email thread that bears no relevance to our position. Individually, these unnecessary emails only take a few minutes, but en masse, they can cost you hours of otherwise productive time.
7. 86 percent of executives cite ineffective communication as a major source of productivity failures. The vast majority of surveyed executives believe that ineffective communication is responsible for failures in the workplace, which can set back productivity dramatically. And considering this is coming from the top, it’s important to take this seriously. Communication is the gateway for all forms of productivity; not only does it take up time in its own right, it also dictates which projects we work on, how we work on them, and how we recover from our mistakes. If we aren’t sending and receiving messages in an efficient, clear way, we can’t be productive in any area of our work.
8. Businesses spend more than 17 hours a week clarifying communication. In an average workplace with 100 employees, professionals spend 17 hours a week clarifying their communications. Note the wording here—“clarifying” implies that the communication has already taken place, but additional communication was necessary to correct some flaw in the original message. In other words, the average workplace wastes 17 hours on follow-up communications that should have been present in the initial messages. At some point, it doesn’t matter how fast you can write and send an email; if you’re saying the wrong things, or leading someone to work on the wrong priorities, it can cost your organization dearly.
9. Connected employees give organizations a 20-25 percent productivity increase. According to a study by McKinsey, companies that fully integrate social technologies see an increase in the productivity of their high-knowledge workers (i.e., managers and professionals) by up to 25 percent. Categories of improvement include reading and answering email, searching for and gathering information, communicating and collaborating with other employees, and completing role-specific tasks. Only a vague definition of “connected employees” is given in the study, but we can assume that social media platforms, instant message apps, and project management platforms can all facilitate this increase.
10. Engagement leads to much higher productivity (38 percent). According to research from the Workplace Research Foundation, highly engaged employees are 38 percent more likely to report above-average productivity. “Engagement” is yet another vague term, but we can define it as an employee’s relationship with the workplace along dimensional factors like morale and job satisfaction. An engaged employee is one who values the work they’re doing, considers the organization they work for in high regard, and who feels good when they go home at the end of the day.
11. An engaged workforce leads to 202 percent higher cumulative performance. If your entire workforce is engaged (on average), you’ll stand to outperform a disengaged competitor’s team by 202 percent. Note that the effects of having a fully engaged workforce far outweigh those of taking a single employee from “disengaged” to “engaged.” That’s because engaged employees are more likely to collaborate, and continue making positive changes that cumulate in a better, more encouraging workplace overall.
12. Yet 70 percent of workers are disengaged. Before you get too excited about the prospects of a fully engaged workforce, you should know how rare it is to have one. A Gallup poll found that 70 percent of employees are disengaged during an average workday. There are many possible reasons for this, including a dearth of companies focused on fostering employee engagement, the general pessimism of full-time workers, and a work culture in the United States that forces people into more stressful, high-pressure positions. In any case, you should know that engaged workers are in the minority.
13. The most productive employees have 10 years of experience in the company. One study found that the best-performing employees had 10 years of service within the company, as well as high engagement and talent for their position. That doesn’t mean you need 10 years of tenure to reach your peak productivity, but it does suggest a few important factors for productivity; employees who are rewarded for their hard work tend to continue working hard, familiarity, training, and experience can boost productivity, and your most engaged, productive workers will be more likely to stick around for several years.
14. The most productive employees represent 5 percent of the workforce. The same study found that only 5 percent of the workforce has achieved this “peak productivity” status. Again, we see that the conditions that lead to peak productivity are rare, perhaps by necessity. If peak productivity was common, we wouldn’t be calling it the “peak.” The rest of us may not be as productive or as busy as we think we are.
15. Stress has a massive impact on productivity ($600 per employee, per year). A Health Advocate study estimates that workplace stress costs businesses approximately $600 per year, per employee in lost productivity, which honestly seems low by my estimates. Workplace stress not only influences core productivity (as we’ll see), but it also influences absenteeism, and is at least partially responsible for ongoing health issues—in fact, Stress.org estimates that 75 to 90 percent of visits to primary care physicians are at least somewhat stress-related.
16. 57 percent of high-stress employees felt unproductive, compared to 10 percent of low-stress employees. Employees who report feeling chronically stressed reported feeling unproductive 57 percent of the time, compared to just 10 percent of employees in low-stress positions. There could be a mutual effect here; the high stress of the position could be resulting in reduced productivity, or a low overall productivity could make employees feel more stressed (as they feel less valued, or see their workload piling up). In any case, it appears that lower-stress environments are favorable to productivity, which is more than a little ironic, since most of us associate the highest-stress positions with the highest level of importance and productivity.
17. Stress over workplace changes results in a 5 percent drop in productivity. If your workplace undergoes a significant change, like a brand overhaul or the introduction of new services, it could result in a 5 percent drop in productivity among your core staff. That doesn’t mean you should specifically avoid making changes in your workplace; on the contrary, experiments and changes are the only ways to make sustainable improvements in your work environment over time. But it does mean you should consider the stress and reactions of your employees when implementing those changes if you want to counteract those negative side effects.
18. Job satisfaction boosts productivity by 6.6 percent. A study in Finnish manufacturing plants found that self-reported job satisfaction was correlated with a 6 increase in productivity for each hour of work. While the study was limited in terms of industry, it’s pretty safe to assume that high levels of job satisfaction wouldn’t be a detriment to productivity. Job satisfaction can manifest in a number of different ways, including feeling like your work is making an impact or feeling like you’re constantly improving your own skills, depending on your personal goals and motivations. A good manager will be able to identify those individual differences, and create a work environment that caters to all of them. For a more in-depth look at how job satisfaction impacts productivity, see Are Satisfied Employees More Productive? Here’s What the Research Says.
19. Sleep deprivation costs up to $65 billion a year. According to a Harvard University study, sleep deprivation costs businesses $65 billion a year in cumulative productivity losses. If that seems excessive to you, consider the dozens of ways that sleep deprivation can affect your body and mind—and how those effects get worse as you miss sleep chronically, and/or the more total hours of sleep you miss. For example, missing just a few hours of sleep can reduce your ability to think critically and concentrate on work, can impair your short-term memory, can be a detriment to your mood and morale, can weaken your immune system, and can increase your risk of accident and injury. Because many of the effects of sleep deprivation are secondary or hard to measure, $65 billion a year may actually be a low estimate.
20. You could lose 11 days of productivity (or more) by missing sleep. Another study found that the average worker misses 11.3 days’ worth of productivity every year due to insomnia and/or poor sleep hygiene. Again, 11.3 days may actually be a low estimate, due to the sheer scale of impact that missing sleep can have. Always aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, and if you find yourself unable to meet those thresholds, consider rearranging your schedule or changing your lifestyle to accommodate them. This isn’t just about your productivity—it’s also about your health.
21. Meetings take up way too much time – an hour per employee per day. An Atlassian study found that employees spend, on average, an hour a day in meetings. That’s nearly 30 hours a month in meetings, or over 300 hours a year. As you’ll see by the following statistics, the majority of meetings are either complete or partial wastes of time, and because meetings often involve multiple participants, the productivity costs can spiral out of control quickly.
22. Meetings are more wasteful for higher-ranked workers. Tacking onto this idea, up to 15 percent of an organization’s time is spent in meetings, while middle managers spend 35 percent of their time in meetings, and upper managers spend 50 percent of their time in meetings. Not to mention, workers spend up to 4 hours a week preparing for meetings. The higher up the seniority ladder you go, the more of a problem meetings seem to be. This is compounded by the fact that higher-ranking workers tend to get paid more, which means the per-hour cost of a wasted meeting gets higher as well.
23. Up to 67 percent of meetings are failures. Collectively, according to the same infographic, managers review two-thirds of meetings to be complete failures or wastes of time. This is no longer just an assumption that we’re spending too much time in meetings based on the sheer number of hours—the majority of core meeting participants view their meetings as failures. There are many reasons why a meeting could fail, including a lack of a solid agenda, too many participants, too much time allocated to the meeting, or a lack of takeaways and action items, and a lot of factors have to converge for a meeting to go right. In most cases, you’re better off sending a well-organized email and resolving the matter in minutes, instead of hours.
24. 58 percent of employees cite management as the biggest hurdle to productivity. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, 58 percent of workers believe that poor management is the biggest obstacle to long-term productivity. Of course, “poor management” could mean any number of things, so you’ll need to be mindful of your choices as a leader. Being too pushy and micromanaging can be counterproductive and demoralizing for your staff, but being completely hands-off can be just as damaging. Learn which management styles best suit your disposition as a leader and the needs of your team.
25. Roughly 30 to 40 percent of employee activity on the internet is not work-related. According to a review by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 30 to 40 percent of all employee actions on the internet aren’t related to work. This shouldn’t surprise you. Employees have a natural tendency to wander to their social media platforms of choice, or do a quick search to see what rhesus monkeys eat, and there isn’t much you can do about this. Try not to eliminate internet distractions altogether—such a strict effort is a fool’s errand—and instead, focus on teaching employees ways to resist distractions when they’re focused on work assignments.
26. Workplace internet misuse costs $63 billion annually. The same study found that these instances of misuse result in a cumulative loss of more than $63 billion a year. Again, while it’s practically impossible to stop your employees from using the internet for non-work related purposes, the steep costs associated with those distractions mean it’s worth taking a look under the hood, and hopefully establishing some habits that encourage more focused work.
27. 92 percent of mutual fund traders trade during work hours. It makes sense that employees would want to make trades during hours when the market is open, but those hours frequently coincide with work hours. Providing workers with breaks throughout the day could give them not only some much-needed breathing room from their most stressful responsibilities, but also a healthy outlet where they can take care of personal responsibilities like these.
28. 70 percent of internet porn traffic occurs during 9-5 weekday hours. SHRM uncovers an even more unsettling statistic, that 70 percent of all internet porn traffic happens during the workday. Setting up a firewall could help you get this problem under control.
29. 28 percent of gift purchases are made during work hours, from offices or cubicles. One more stat from the SHRM compilation—more than a quarter of all online gift purchases are done during the workday, from offices and cubicles. Again, the solution could be relegating personal tasks like these to defined break periods, or giving employees more tools to help them combat their distractions throughout the day.
30. Companies with regular opportunities for employee feedback have much lower turnover. A Gallup study confirms that businesses where employees can give and receive feedback regularly have a 14.9 percent lower turnover rate. Giving employees feedback provides them with meaningful advice they can use to improve their skillsets and overall job performance—and when employees feel like they’re improving, they feel more engaged with their work. It’s also an opportunity to help your employees combat their bad habits, one on one. Receiving feedback from employees is just as important; remember, poor management leads to a significant drop in productivity, so this is your chance to learn how to be a better leader to your team. It’s also a safe place for employees to speak up about their concerns, and if they feel like they’re being listened to, they’ll feel less stressed about those grievances.
31. Multitasking makes you 40 percent less productive. Trying to do two things at once, such as looking through notes while attending a phone meeting, can reduce your total productivity by 40 percent. Most people realize this “average” statistic, but feel they’re the exception to the rule—despite knowing that multitasking is inherently counterproductive, they still try to cheat the system by using their smartphone during conversations, keeping two tasks open at any given time, or by following two online conversations at once. You can guide employees to be more focused by banning smartphones and other mobile devices in meetings, and by encouraging employees to disable notifications and other apps when they’re working on important projects. Perhaps most importantly, you can set a good example for your employees by refusing to multitask in your own life.
32. People who telecommute are more productive (by 14 percent). One oft-cited Stanford study found that Chinese employees who were allowed to work from home saw a 14 percent boost in productivity. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should allow your employees to work from home, but it does illustrate a few important principles. For example, giving employees extra perks and showing that you trust them could be responsible for making them work harder. They may feel indebted, or may want to prove that the extra privilege is worth keeping around – or even simply feel more job satisfaction, which, as we’ve seen, can boost productivity. Also keep in mind that telecommuting eliminates the need for a traditional commute, which can free up hours of time (and eliminate stress) every day.
33. That said, employees who work remotely 60 to 80 percent of the time tend to be the most engaged. Working from home too much isn’t a perfect setup, however; it can also make employees feel distant from one another, and in some cases, may encourage further distractions. A Gallup poll found the “sweet spot” for working remotely to be somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of the time, though your business may find a radically different distribution.
34. Exercising before work boosts productivity by 15 percent. The American Psychological Association confirms that one of the many benefits of physical exercise is a 15 percent boost in performance during the workday. On top of that, employees who exercise regularly will be healthier and more energetic, missing fewer workdays due to illness (and saving you money in healthcare costs). You can encourage employees to exercise in several different ways; for example, you could give employees flexibility to arrive late (so long as they’re putting their mornings to good use), organize a “bike to work” program that incentivizes bicycling commuters, or even host a morning exercise routine with yoga and/or light calisthenics.
35. Summer comes with a productivity drop (20 percent or more). Captive Network found that workplace productivity tends to drop around 20 percent during summer months, and workers are 45 percent more likely to be distracted during summer. You can’t make summer inherently less distracting, but you can provide workers with the proper outlets to funnel those distractions. For example, you could host walks or outdoor lunches that let your employees enjoy the outdoors during the workday, or allow more breaks and vacations so workers aren’t as antsy to get out of the office.
36. Employees who use their strengths see an 8 percent boost in productivity. A Gallup poll finds that workers who feel that they’re using their core strengths on a daily basis tend to be 8 percent more productive, and are 6 times more likely to be engaged than their counterparts. Monitoring your employees’ performances and listening to their feedback can help you determine the strengths and weaknesses of each individual on your team. From there, it’s on you to rebalance and potentially redistribute workloads so each of your employees gets more of the tasks they’re good at, and fewer tasks they’re bad at. Not only will those tasks get completed faster, your employees will be happier (and more efficient) as well.
37. The ideal temperature for productivity is 65-70 F. Multiple studies have found that there’s a “sweet spot” for productivity, in terms of office temperature, and that temperature is somewhere between 65 and 70 F. Depending on where you live, and the individual preferences of your team members, that range may vary. Experiment to find the perfect temperature for your office, and keep it there.
38. 90-minute intervals are perfect for maximizing productivity and performance. One study from Florida State University found that the ideal circumstances for work are 90-minute intervals, followed up with a short break. We often think of breaks as inherently unproductive, since we’re stepping away from work to do something fun (or sometimes, do nothing at all). But those break periods give our minds a chance to rest, recover, and prepare for another round of focus and diligence.
39. Or maybe it’s 52-minute intervals. Another study found that, on average, it’s best for people to work for 52 minutes at a time, followed by a 17 minute break. I haven’t studied the science of breaks hands-on, but I feel it’s safe to conclude that there is no perfect timing system for when to work and when to take a break. My guess is, it’s different for everybody, and each individual’s preferences may vary based on their mood, environment, working history, and the nature of their current project. What’s clear is that breaks have the power to improve productivity, so actively encourage your employees to rest when they need to.
40. Employees are 68 percent less productive when they feel overloaded. Feeling overwhelmed with work, or like you don’t have enough hours a day to finish your responsibilities, can lead to a 68 percent drop in productivity. While it’s good to challenge your employees, and keep their task lists full of important to-do items, if employees feel like they’re chronically behind, or like they’re never going to catch up, it can work against you. When your employees seem like they’re at the breaking point, make sure to redistribute those workloads, and hire a freelancer or contractor to pick up some extra tasks.
41. It takes 10 months for a new sales rep to become fully productive. Productivity is often a byproduct of the time you spend training and orienting your employees, as evidenced by the fact that it takes salespeople 10 months to reach peak productivity. Expecting your employees to be perfectly productive without investing time and effort into training them is like expecting a puppy to know dozens of tricks the day you bring it home. Be patient, and work with your employees to build the good habits that create sustainable, productive work.
42. 61 percent of employees cite loud coworkers as their biggest distraction. Online distractions aside, 61 percent of employees claim that it’s loud coworkers who distract them the most. I’m all for watercooler talk and camaraderie between coworkers, but if loud conversations, ringtones, or music are above a certain threshold, they’re going to bring down the productivity of the entire office. Keep noise in check by talking to chronically loud employees, and by providing quiet spaces for your workers to use at their discretion.
43. 75 percent of Americans don’t think they have access to the latest in efficiency tools. One Staples study found that three-quarters of American employees don’t believe they’re using the latest and greatest in productivity technology. That’s partially due to the fact that new technology is constantly emerging, and there’s no way for even the most successful companies to stay ahead of the curve forever. However, it’s also due to the fact that many companies are reluctant to upgrade their technology, either because they don’t have the budget for it or because they don’t like the idea of change. Don’t be afraid to make upgrades and changes; there are always some growing pains when investing in new tech, but the costs are almost always worth the boost you get in productivity.
44. 61 percent of employees access four or more systems to get the information they need. More than 61 percent of the workforce needs to access four or more independent systems to get all the information they need to do their job, which is inherently inefficient. You can improve your team’s productivity by centralizing that information as much as possible, using one platform for the bulk of your work and communications, and relying on external platforms only as a backup, or for niche needs. Thankfully, many modern project management apps attempt to bill themselves as all-in-one solutions capable of this.
45. 96 percent of professionals believe employees make mistakes when time tracking. If you think time tracking is an effective solution to document and analyze worker productivity, you might want to think again. An astounding 96 percent of professionals believe their employees aren’t using time tracking correctly, for one reason or another. They might be logging their time retroactively (and therefore inaccurately), or may forget to start and stop the timer at proper intervals. Ingraining the habit early, and occasionally monitoring for accuracy can help you catch and mitigate these errors.
46. Happy workers are 12 percent more productive. A study from the University of Warwick revealed that happiness can boost productivity by 12 percent, while unhappiness made workers 10 percent less productive. Happiness stems from innumerable factors, both at work and at home, so you won’t be able to control all of them. But talk to your workers personally to gauge their happiness levels, and if someone seems chronically upset, do what you can to make their work environment better.
47. Productivity plummets after 50 hours a week. Do you think putting in 60 hours a week will help you get more done? What about 70 hours a week? The truth is, after putting in 50 hours a week, your productivity plummets. Falling in line with the expectations we made when examining the effects of breaks, there’s a certain point where raw hours spent working are no longer effective. Try not to push your employees to work more than 50 hours a week; those hours will have increasingly and rapidly diminishing returns.
48. Plants in the office can boost productivity by 15 percent. Strangely enough, the inclusion of a handful of houseplants in the office can increase productivity in the office by 15 percent. Is it because of the extra oxygenation they provide in the air? Or because it makes the office seem more natural and cozier? There’s no clear answer here, but 15 percent is hard to argue with—especially when houseplants are so inexpensive and easy to maintain.
49. Music can boost mood and concentration in 63 percent of employees. Some employees might not notice a difference either way, but the majority of workers report a better mood and increased capacity for concentration when music is playing. There are a few caveats to this, of course; people tend to show increases in productivity when music they genuinely enjoy is playing, and above a certain volume threshold, any music can become distracting. Additionally, lyrically-intensive music can distract people—especially when their job requires communication.
50. Color temperatures of 4,600K or more are best for productivity. Counterintuitively, high-temperature light emissions are known as “cool” because they tend to be on the blue and violet end of the spectrum. Research shows that cool-temperature lighting, of at least 4,600K, is much better for focus, concentration, and productivity. Natural light during the day tends to offer this cooler temperature organically, but you can also simulate it with bright, blue-tinted lights.
51. 81 percent of HR decision makers believe a pet-friendly workplace increases productivity. More than 81 percent of HR decision makers and 67 percent of employees believed that having a pet in the office improves productivity. Depending on your brand personality and office limitations, that could mean letting your employees bring in their dogs and cats at their own discretion, having an office cat as a mascot, or having a low-maintenance pet like a goldfish at the front desk.
While these productivity statistics can and should be used to make you think critically about your own office setup, there are a few caveats to keep in mind before you use them to radically transform your business:
- Studies always have limitations. No matter how good a study appears to be, it will always have a limitation. It may be in the number of participants, the control conditions, or in the type of demographics used for the study. You’ve already seen how a pair of studies can come to seriously different conclusions (think about the “ideal” break times in points 38 and 39), so it’s important to consider any productivity finding with a grain of salt. Just because it unfolded a certain way in a scientific study doesn’t mean you’ll be able to replicate those conditions for your team.
- Individuals will always vary. Nobody exists as an entirely “average” human. We all have unique preferences, needs, experiences, and ideal working conditions. Accordingly, you may find that an environment that boosts one employee’s productivity has a negative effect on another’s. It’s up to you to find the balance, and create a workplace where the greatest number of employees can thrive.
- There’s no such thing as “peak” productivity. Many of these statistics emphasize the concept of “maximizing” productivity, or increasing it by specific percentage points, but the reality is, there’s no such thing as “peak” productivity. Try not to think of your staff members as constantly climbing toward 100 percent productivity, and instead, try to optimize your environment for a healthy, productive balance. Accept your team’s flaws and limitations, and don’t get discouraged when you find one of your new productivity strategies coming up short. This is a long-term process, and it won’t always go the way you predict.
Uncovering Your Own Productivity
These productivity statistics represent averages across many disciplines, and in many areas, so by definition, they’ll only have limited relevance to your own professional life. If you want to dig deeper, and learn more about your own personal productivity, you’ll need a specialized tool to help you do it.
That’s where EmailAnalytics comes in. EmailAnalytics is a productivity tool designed to integrate with Gmail and G Suite—because as you’ve learned, email is a major source of lost productivity, and an imperative source for improving it. With EmailAnalytics, you’ll be able to see your busiest email days, track how much time you’re spending on email, and identify key areas for improvement, so you can take an accurate measurement of your current productivity and chart a course to increase it in the future.
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