2021 work hour trends to watch in 2022

by Time Doctor
work hour trends

The past few years saw a massive shift in employee work patterns, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As a result, organizations adopted various productivity techniques and monitored work hour trends to keep up with the changing workplace culture. 

In this article, we’ll explore the top 11 work hour trends in 2021 that will give you a detailed insight into how the industry changed and what you can expect to see in the near future. We’ll also look at how these trends will affect your business and what they mean. 

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Let’s begin! 

Here’s are the top work hour trends for your business in 2022: 

1. Average workweek around the world 

According to a 2020 survey, the average working hours for a workweek worldwide range from 37 to 50 hours per week

This study analyzed over 37 countries around the world. Here’s a detailed demographic breakdown of the results: 

Country Average Number Of Hours Per Work Week in 2020
Denmark 37.2 
Italy 39.5
Czech Republic40.3
United Kingdom41.8
Columbia 49.8

Source: 24/7 Wall St, 2020

Based on this data, the same study made certain observations between the countries’ average weekly hours and employee satisfaction. They found that:

  • Developed countries with shorter work hour weeks had more employee-friendly workplace laws and conventions in place. (US. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Market Review) 
  • These had better overtime compensation, more considerate vacation and annual leave policies, and higher employee life satisfaction in general. 
  • In contrast, countries with long working hours had lower life satisfaction. (worldpopulationreview.com, 2020)

2. Average work hours duration 

The overall work hours have declined substantially over the recent years, mainly because employees improved their productivity and performed the tasks in a lower working time. 

According to OECD stats for the annual working hours in the European Union and other OECD countries, most countries had shorter working hours in 2021 compared to 2018. 

Here’s a comparison between six of these countries: 

CountriesAnnual Work Hours (2018) Annual Work Hours (2021)
Costa Rica21211913
United States17821767

Source: OECD.Stat, 2021

Additionally, data shows that North American and European countries had considerably shorter (34 hours/week) working hours in 2021 when compared to Asian and African respondents (over 48 hours/week). (NCBI, 2021

3. Working hour losses remained high 

According to the International Labor Organization, working hour losses are related to unemployment and the number of jobs lost.

Another after-effect of the pandemic has been a loss of working hours around the world. These losses remained persistently high throughout 2021. 

Why is that? 

In the wake of COVID-19, employers are more likely to reduce their working hours or eliminate job positions to reduce labor costs.

For example, research shows that the total working day hours logged in high-income countries was 3.6% lower in 2021 than in 2019. But even so, low-income countries suffered a much higher loss at 5.7%

When you look at the regional employment impact data for 2021, it states the following: 

  • Europe and Central Asia saw the lowest cut in weekly work hours at 2.5%.
  • Asian and Pacific countries suffered a loss of 4.6% in working time.
  • African and American countries had a 5.6% of work hours loss.
  • Middle Eastern states saw the highest cutbacks of 6.4% working time.

4. Per hour productivity in 2021

GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per hour worked measures a country’s productivity, excluding unemployment or hours worked per week. 

It measures the efficiency of labor input and the total hours worked by all persons engaged in production, along with other factors of production.

According to Our World in Data, here are the top productive countries in 2021 and their average work hours:

Country Productivity per hour (2021)Average work hours (2021)
Ireland$99.1339.7 hours per week
Norway$80.8338.0 hours per week
Switzerland$69.2640.5 hours per week
Luxembourg$68.3640 hours per week
Germany$66.7139.5 hours per week
Sweden$54.1039.0 hours per week

Source: Our Work in Data, 2021

These countries had better mental health and well-being initiatives, paid leaves on public holidays and vacations, a more agreeable minimum wage, and a more flexible work arrangement. 

5. Increase in remote working 

According to a 2020 Gartner poll, 48% of employees will continue to work remotely in their main job post the COVID pandemic (compared to 30% in 2019).  

Another Upwork study predicts that at least 22% of the American workforce will be remote employees by 2025. That’s almost 36.2 million people working from home. 

To top it off, a Breeze survey found that in 2021, 65% of employees would be willing to take 5% pay cuts for full-time work from home.

This could be due to the positive effects of working from home. Research suggests that remote employees are more productive, face fewer distractions, and have a better work-life balance. 

6. Surge in use of attendance and productivity tools

With the increase in remote work, 16% of employers are more likely to use technologies to monitor employee attendance and productivity. (Gartner, 2019

Productivity software like Hubstaff saw a 72% hike in new leads in 2020 compared to previous years. Teramind, another productivity software, reported a triple-digit percentage increase in new clients since 2020.   

Another study found that over 94% of organizations use some means of monitoring employee productivity and management

But some of these tools faced their own challenges. According to a 2019 Accenture survey, 64% of employees were concerned about how their companies use their collected data.

So what do you do? 

This is where time tracking software like Time Doctor can help you. 

Time Doctor has strict privacy and data security laws to protect employee privacy. It also does not track your keyboard activity or monitor your screen outside of work hours. 

7. Rise in hiring of consultants over full-time employees

While 2020 saw a lot of pay cuts and reduction in freelancers’ budgets, 2021 saw a drastic shift. 

A recent Gartner survey of HR professionals reveals that organizations preferred remote consultants and gig employees for full-time or part-time work in 2021. 

Why is that? 

For one thing, remote freelancers and independent contractors substantially reduce labor costs like healthcare, paid vacation, and other benefits. 

For example, businesses can save up to 31% by hiring remote freelancers (USDL, 2021). Employees also have better flexible work schedules with telework. 

These reasons lead to a rising trend in hiring consultants and contractors. Over 80% of large corporations in the US plan to use a flexible workforce. (Intuit, 2020

8. Work hour flexibility shifted from location to time parameters

2021 also saw a growing workplace trend shift in terms of work hour flexibility. 

As seen in 2020, remote work offered the flexibility to work from home without visiting the office, and over 88% of organizations allowed their employees to work from home in 2020. (Gartner, 2020

Employers soon realized the benefits of a flexible schedule compared to a 9-5 job. 

For example, a 2020 Gartner survey surveyed over 5,000 HR professionals. Here’s what they found: 

  • Organizations with a standard 40 hour workweek saw 36% of their employees as high performers
  • In contrast, companies that offered flexibility over when and how employees worked saw 55% of employees as high performers in their team.  

Interestingly, many organizations in the UK, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, and more recently Iceland have started conducting trials to encourage employers to adopt a 4-day workweek. 

9. More employees ditched 9-5 jobs for self employment

Considering the various benefits of flexible work, 2021 saw a growing trend in employees going for self-employed work. In other words, the gig economy saw a phenomenal rise. 

The US alone saw 35% of its entire workforce working freelance jobs in 2021, compared to 14-20% in 2014. In fact, the global gig worker market is expected to reach over $455.2 billion by 2023. (Statista, 2021)  

So what does this mean for businesses? 

As an employer, you need to adapt to the changing market by hiring freelancers and attracting fresh talent.

10. Remote workers worked longer hours than before

A 2020 Owl Labs study found that the average worker in a remote environment worked a longer work schedule in recent years. Specifically, consultants and freelancers worked more hours for their organizations (26 average working hours each month)

About 55% of employees admitted clocking in outside of the working week. To top it off, 34% of those surveyed said that they regularly put in more than eight hours per day. (Robert Half, 2020

While this resulted in higher profits for the company, employees found it difficult to sign off and disconnect after work hours.  

11. Countries emphasized on work-life balance    

A Fingerprint For Success survey conducted in 2021 found that 67% of employees believe that their work life balance improved after working remotely

Your work-life balance largely varies depending on the country you work in. 

For example, Finland encouraged companies to adopt a 6 hour workday in 2020. Stockholm also ranked first for the work-life balance due to its flexible work hours, parental leaves, and sick leave policy.  

The Netherlands was another country to emphasize greater work-life balance for its employees. Only 0.4% of employees work long hours in the Netherlands, and the country scored highest (9.5/10) in the world happiness index. (OECD, 2021

And recently (December 2021), UAE has announced that it’ll transition to a 4.5 hours/day work week with Friday afternoons, Saturday, and Sunday as the weekend. The extended weekend is a part of the government’s efforts to enhance employee work-life balance.

What do these work hour trends mean for your business?

Every year, businesses face hundreds of challenges, one of them being the changing trends in the workplace. These trends highlight the changing norms within the worker culture. 

So being up-to-date on the latest work hour trends, for example, will help you stay on top of things. Here’s what they mean for your business: 

  • Increased importance of employee wellness: An increasing number of people seek jobs that advocate employee wellness. This includes better sick leave and parental leave policies, focus on employee engagement and mental healthcare initiatives, minimum wage laws that eliminate the need for collective bargaining, flexible work arrangements for older workers, etc. 
  • Move towards flexible work: Companies will need to adapt to the changing labor productivity standards. This includes a shift in focus from 9-5 workdays to more flexible working hours. 
  • Benefit from freelancers: The employee landscape is shifting towards independent work. Both organizations and individuals can benefit from the gig economy, and employers need to modify their workplace culture and hiring practices to keep up with the changing trends. 
  • Keep evolving your workplace: Most importantly, both employees and employers need to constantly educate, evolve, and upskill themselves with the fast-changing workplace trends. 

Closing thoughts

Monitoring the latest work hour trends and statistics is a great way to understand how the changing employee trends will affect your business. 

This way, you’re always prepared to implement any changes within your employees’ workflows and work environment to make them more productive. 

And if you want to track the trends in your own organization, time tracking and employee productivity software like Time Doctor can help you track employee work hours accurately.

Why not sign up for Time Doctor’s free trial and become a trendsetter?

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