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The Average Workday Has Shrunk by 37 Minutes

Employees are calling it quits a little earlier than they did a year ago—but that's actually a good thing


A woman working on a laptop at a desk.


​Employees are working more than half an hour less per day than they did a year ago, new research finds—but the shift is generally good news.

Data from the ActivTrak Productivity Lab—which analyzed more than 38 million hours worked from 134,260 anonymized employees between January 2022 and June 2023—found that the length of the workday decreased 33 minutes quarter over quarter during that time period, and 37 minutes year over year.

This shortened work time in work hours was entirely at the end of the day, with workers shutting down earlier than the previous five quarters.

But take that change with a grain of salt: Although time worked has shrunk, it's declined to 10 hours a day from 10 hours and 37 minutes a day. Nearly one-third (28 percent) of employees remain overutilized as they continue to log 10-plus hour days, the analysis found.

The decline in hours worked has a positive impact, the researchers say: Ending the workday earlier contributes to a decrease in overutilization and a positive shift in overall employee well-being.

"This shift did not result in a loss of productivity, but rather an improvement in workload balance," said Productivity Lab manager Sarah Altemus. "Factors such as the return of commutes for in-office workers, seasonal summer schedules and better time management could be contributing to this shift."

We rounded up additional articles on the news and related topics from SHRM Online and other outlets.

Decline in Employee Well-being

The findings about work hours—and their impact on employee well-being—come as employee well-being has declined over the past year. Recent data from MetLife showed a significant drop in overall holistic health in the past year, which incorporates physical, financial, mental and social health, with just 40 percent of employees saying they feel holistically healthy. Financial and mental health, in particular, have experienced sharp declines.

Just 55 percent of employees said they are financially well, although employers don't seem to understand the full scope of the problem: 83 percent said their employees are financially well, according to MetLife.

(SHRM Online)

Company Breaks and Summer Schedules

As the ActivTrak Productivity Lab report notes, some employers have altered summer schedules for employees or added specific summertime benefits.

Consulting firm KPMG, for instance, offers its employees two weeklong companywide breaks—one in the summer and one in the winter—on top of the vacation time it offers. The firm also this year added a summer jump-start program, designed to let people start their Fridays a little bit earlier from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

The breaks and summer benefits are some of the initiatives the consulting company with roughly 40,000 U.S. workers has implemented to help improve employees' mental health—a focus that has become even more important as employees struggle with stress, anxiety and other issues as a result of the pandemic, inflation and other factors.

"We want them to just go and really disconnect," Jason LaRue, KPMG's national managing partner of talent and culture, said of the companywide breaks. "We know disconnection is a big part of being able to stay charged over a longer period of time. Productivity is really a function of health and capability. Both of those things have to be true in order to be able to optimize performance and productivity."

(SHRM Online)

Productivity Declines

Although the analysis found that worker productivity has been stable, other data has found big dips in productivity. Employee productivity has taken a hit over the past several quarters, with experts pointing to an array of factors contributing to the overall decline in productivity, including economic uncertainty, layoffs, burnout and a high rate of quitting.

But new data shows signs of improvement. After five consecutive quarters of productivity declines—the longest stretch in decades—workers initiated a big turnaround in the second quarter, with labor productivity spiking by 3.7 percent after a 1.2 percent dip in the first quarter, a Labor Department report found in May.

Gregory Daco, chief economist at EY-Parthenon, told Fortune that one reason for the resurgence in productivity is that companies likely reached their limit with low output and invested in productivity enhancement. Employers can keep this trend up by keeping strong performers on board through doubling down on retention efforts, long-term training programs and technology integration, he said.

(Fortune and SHRM Online)

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