8 work hour statistics and trends every employer should know

by Time Doctor
Work Hour Statistics

Businesses that track employee work hours know its value in ensuring productivity and compliance.

However, our working style, duration, and how we measure work hours keep evolving with changes in local labor laws and advancements in technology. This has become even more important since most companies embraced remote work due to the pandemic.

As a result, business leaders should keep an eye on key work hour statistics and the latest trends around it to keep up with these changes. These stats will give vital clues into changing employee expectations and help you make better workforce management decisions.

In this article, we’ll share eight interesting work hour statistics and explain how work hours are usually measured at a company and national level.

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Here are eight interesting and useful stats and trends that could help you see employee productivity and work hours in a new light:

1. Annual work hours are on a decline

Today, the world is at the peak of industrial and technological advancements. So it’s natural to assume that, collectively, we are working more than any of the previous generations.

Surprisingly, historical data shows that average working hours have been on a decline over the last 150 years, especially in developed economies (based on the research by economic historians Michael Huberman and Chris Minns).

For example, the average annual working hours for a full-time employed person in the USA fell around 40% from over 3044 hours to around 1757 hours between 1880-2017. In Germany, this decline was even sharper at nearly 60% for the same period.

The data also shows that this decline can be attributed to smaller shift sizes and average workweek, as well as an increase in public holidays, annual leave count, and vacation time. 

However, the rate of this decline has slowed down or stabilized in many OECD countries in the last few decades. OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) is an intergovernmental organization with 38 member countries as of 2021.

Note: A key source for historical records in the work of Huberman and Minns is a report published by the Department of Labor in 1900. It was a compilation of various independent surveys in 88 countries and territories.

2. Average work hours vary significantly

There’s a wide gap in the average salaries in different parts of the world. 

For example, the average income of a worker in a rich country like Switzerland is much higher than one based in Cambodia.

But wait, how does this difference in earnings translate to working hours?

The available data shows a general trend that despite earning more, workers in richer economies usually work for fewer hours than those in growing or poorer countries.

While many countries follow the standard 40-hour workweek, the actual weekly hours significantly differ in various parts of the world. 

The daily and weekly actual hours also depend on various factors like:

  • Economic activity and labor laws in the country.
  • Employee age group, gender, experience, and location.
  • Working on weekdays vs. weekend days.
  • Self-employed vs. salaried employee.
  • The nature of the job (full-time, part-time, or remote employees).

Let’s check out some interesting statistics here:

  • An average employee in Germany works for 1332 hours in a year, the lowest among OECD countries. (OECD, 2020).
  • Mexican employees clocked 2124 hours on average in 2020, one of the highest among OECD countries. (OECD, 2020).
  • In 2020, employees in the Netherlands clocked the lowest average weekly hours (29.5) for the main job, while Colombian employees clocked the highest (47.6). In comparison, the weekly working hours for an average American employee were 38.7.
  • Finland and Canada have the shortest average workday (6 hours and 45 minutes) worldwide. As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average American employee works for 8.8 hours a day. 
  • Full-time workers in Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands enjoy some of the best work life balance and get to spend around 60% (nearly 16 hours) of their day on personal care. 
  • The five-day working week in Saudi Arabia begins on a Sunday and not Monday.

Let’s break it down further and take a look at the data for average annual hours for some of the major cities in the world:

CityAverage Annual Working Hours
New York2046
London 2003

Source: Statista, 2018

Businesses looking to set up offshore branches or outsource their operations to another country should carefully study the standard work hours in the regions. It’ll help you estimate the labour cost more accurately.

3. Working long hours may not translate to higher productivity

There’s a ton of data to debunk the popular belief that longer hours equals more work.  

For instance, Mexico has one of the highest annual hours counts, but the country’s GDP per hour worked (an indicator of labor productivity) is one of the lowest among OECD countries.

Today, there’s enough evidence to prove that employee productivity decreases as their shift time increases

According to a study, an average full time employee in the U.K is truly productive for just around three hours during an 8-hour workday. 79% of the respondents admitted to not being productive throughout the day.

Moreover, a worker could pass off time as hours worked without actually working. As per a study by Robert Half International, an average employee steals 4.5 hours each week, totaling around six full work weeks annually. 

And without an advanced system to monitor time and productivity, managers may not tell an efficient employee from one who just logs in more hours.

That could seriously affect the company throughput and profit margins.

4. Flexible work is here to stay

According to a Bentley University study, 77% of the millennial workforce believe they’d be more productive with flexible work hours.

This is a crucial statistic, especially when we see it in light of another study by Upwork, stating that millennial and Gen Z employees would make up 58% of the workforce by 2028.

What do these numbers indicate?

They clearly indicate what the newer generations of the workforce expect from their employers and that the post-Covid work style changes may be here to stay. 

Telecommuting and flexible working styles have already caught the eyes of many companies and may well become standard in the years to come.

Millennials are comfortable with the digital workspace, and giving them the flexibility to work from anywhere and anytime may be a win-win for all. 

Moreover,  remote work with flexible hours will encourage many college-goers to take up part-time jobs, which they otherwise wouldn’t have considered due to long commutes. 

5. Time-saving benefits of remote work

According to a study by Upwork, an average remote worker would save an average of 51 minutes each day by not having to commute to the office. 

This is one of the many remote work statistics that establish it as an efficient alternative to a traditional office setup that requires long commutes.

While the exact time saved might vary for different regions, employees in all major world cities usually undertake long and tiring commutes, mainly using public transport. In addition to wasting valuable time, it could also affect their productivity, health, and morale.

Besides giving them almost an hour of extra time each day, remote working also saves employees money and reduces their carbon footprint.

6. Cost savings due to telecommuting

As per a report by Global Workplace Analytics, an employer could save nearly $11,000 each year on every employee who telecommutes half the time.

This figure was reached taking into account factors like:

The same report mentions that employees could save anywhere between USD 600 and 6000 by working remotely for half the year.

7. The 6-hour workday experiment

The standard working hours in most parts of the world is around 8 (9 am to 6 pm) hours. Even with flexible work, many employees usually need to clock in at least eight hours a day. 

However, both employees and employers continue to cite issues related to productivity, work accuracy, and work life balance with this arrangement.

It raises the question: can a shortened workday or workweek be a more efficient alternative? 

Over the years, many countries and companies have experimented with the six-hour workday to boost productivity, manage workplace stress and improve work life balance. 

Sweden was one of the earliest countries to try it out and reported mixed results.

There was a need to hire additional staff, the cost of which was estimated at about 12 million Kroner ($1.3 million USD). However, authorities reported a decrease in sick leaves and off-time, which offset this cost to an extent.

Other European countries like Finland and Iceland have also shown a keen interest in adopting a reduced work time approach.

Similarly, companies like Brath and Filimundus (in Stockholm) have experimented with a six-hour workday and reported improved employee satisfaction and retention. 

To get positive outcomes from reduced work hours, companies may need to make fundamental changes to their work style. This may include minimizing unimportant meetings and casual distractions from the workspace so that employees can fully utilize their hours.

8. More meetings during remote work

A Harvard Business School survey on 3.1 million people across 16 global cities reported that:

  • The average number of meetings per person has increased by almost 13% during the pandemic-induced remote work.
  • But the sessions are shorter, with a nearly 20% reduction in the average time.

Here are some other interesting statistics on meetings to give you a better context:

  • 47% of respondents in a survey by Atlassian believed that meetings were the biggest time wasters during the workday.
  • 91% confessed to daydreaming and 39% to sleeping during meetings.
  • The study estimates the salary costs of unnecessary meetings for US businesses at a staggering USD 37 Billion.
  • As per a 2019 Doddle report, 70% of professionals preferred meetings between 8 am and 12 pm.

Now, let’s check out how countries and companies actually measure and compile work hour data.  

How are work hours measured?

An average employee spends almost one-third of their life working.

Naturally, how much and how they work has a significant impact on the company’s success, as is evident from the stats above. 

So businesses must measure and monitor the time the workforce spends working to track their productivity and workload.

Let’s check out how a company can measure employee work hours, which can then be aggregated into national and global data.

A. At a company level

One of the most reliable ways to measure work hours at an individual, team, or company level is to use an advanced tool like Time Doctor.

Time Doctor is a popular time and productivity management tool trusted by large companies, like Verizon and Ericsson, and SMBs, such as Thrive Market.

Companies can easily measure employee hours and evaluate their productivity using the tool’s cutting-edge time tracking solution.

Here are some useful features of Time Doctor:

B. At a national and global level

To get a larger perspective on a country’s labor force and their hours of work, statistical agencies usually conduct periodic surveys. These surveys collect valuable data and help analyze a country’s labour market and employment status.

For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in the USA and the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) in India usually collect work hours and other data.

Some of the standard surveys include:

  • Labour force survey: To measure the employment rate, unemployment rate and collect data related to working conditions, minimum wage, work hours, etc.
  • Establishments survey: To study the behavior and output of an organization.
  • Time use survey (TUS): To measure time spent by individuals on different activities.

Countries then collate the data from these surveys and combine them with other data sets (census, tax information, etc.) to generate detailed national accounts. 

These national records offer a more comprehensive view of the work hour stats. For example, you can filter the data to check average working hours for a particular demographic or for a specific time of the year.

Most countries have set standards to conduct these surveys and create national accounts, allowing agencies like OECD to aggregate these stats on a global level.

Wrapping up

Work hour statistics are a great way to monitor short and long-term work trends and gain vital insights into the workforce’s expectations.

You can use the stats shared in this article to your advantage by taking proactive measures to prepare for the changing trends and ensure employee well-being. It’ll help you manage your workforce more effectively while improving your profit margins.

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