Survey: the Most and Least Productive Times for Americans
Employee productivity is a critical aspect of any successful business. When employees are productive, they are more engaged, deliver work faster, and produce high-quality results.
However, productivity can be affected by various factors, including workplace culture, employee morale, and work environment. That’s why we set out to uncover how employees truly feel about their personal productivity. We surveyed employed Americans about their habits, attitudes, and perceptions around their own productivity. Read on to see what we found.
9:00 am - 11:00 am is the most productive time block for employees, while 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm is the least productive
61% of employees surveyed wish they were more productive
The average person reports that they can be productive for roughly 5 hours and 8 minutes consecutively
60% of respondents think artificial intelligence makes employees more productive
What Time Do People Get the Most (and Least) Done?
Diving into the data, we first wanted to know when people are the most and least productive throughout the day. On a work day, 39.9% of employees say they get the most done between 9:00 am and 11:00 am.
This comes as no surprise as many people tend to be the most productive when their energy levels are high and their minds are fresh. Reports have shown that individuals can focus better, make better decisions, and accomplish more tasks efficiently toward the start of their day.
On the other hand, the least productive hours are typically in the late afternoon, between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm, according to 23.9% of respondents. During this time, many people may experience a drop in energy levels (contrary to the morning) and find it harder to concentrate on tasks.
This pattern applies not only to professional tasks, but also to personal productivity on a day off work. Similar to above, when completing personal tasks (like running errands, paying bills, etc.) 30.2% say they get the most accomplished between 9:00 am and 11:00 am. That’s just another reason why people should consider setting an alarm and sticking to a morning routine, even if there aren’t any time-sensitive obligations on the itinerary.
One in ten shared the sentiment that they’re least productive between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm, but more respondents say they get the least accomplished after 9:00 pm. The night owls attempting to keep their momentum going late into the night likely will experience fatigue, contributing to this decline in productivity.
Analyzing Productivity by Age, Gender, and More
Digging deeper, we wanted to know how people feel about their personal productivity. We found that a large majority of employees (61%) wish they were more productive. Interestingly, there were significant differences among age groups, with 74% of Gen Z aspiring to be more productive compared to just 50% of Baby Boomers. The majority (76%) feel most productive working independently, and Gen Z is the most likely generation to feel productive working with others (36%).
Additionally, one in five employees (20%) reported feeling guilty when taking a break while on the clock. Remote employees are 35% more likely than on-site employees to feel this guilt. But work environment isn’t the only factor at play — women are also 26% more likely than men to feel guilty while taking a break.
The reality is, 70% say taking a break typically makes them feel more productive. With this in mind, employees should be encouraged to take breaks to mitigate burnout. On the flip side, employers can help by fostering a culture where employees feel that it's acceptable to take breaks.
And while sharp deadlines may not support that narrative, we live in a deadline-driven world. 74% of employees say they get things done faster when they have impending deadlines. Deadlines can be a powerful motivator for individuals, as they provide a clear goal and timeline for completing tasks, which can help employees feel a stronger sense of accomplishment.
While typical workdays last upwards of eight hours, the average person reports that they can be productive for just over five consecutive hours — though this varies greatly with age, tenure, and experience. Gen Z estimates being able to work for less than five hours before needing a break, while Baby Boomers feel they could work for over six hours straight.
But productivity is key for those looking to advance their career. VPs and presidents reported working consecutively for 73% longer — a difference of nearly four hours — than associate-level respondents.
When asked about the growing trend of artificial intelligence in the workforce, 60% believe it increases productivity. Millennials are the most accepting of AI, with 64% of them sharing this sentiment. The higher up the corporate ladder an individual is, the more likely they are to believe in the benefits of AI. For example, 75% of directors, VPs, and presidents feel that AI increases employee productivity, compared to 57% of associates.
Conversations around productivity can be helpful for everyone involved — employers and employees alike. It gives us a chance to figure out what factors are making us more or less productive, and then come up with ways to increase efficiency and accomplish even more.
Ultimately, by optimizing productivity, employees can feel more fulfilled, engaged, and satisfied with their work, leading to better business outcomes for employers.
If you’re looking for ways to increase both employee productivity and your own productivity, Deputy is here to help. Our employee scheduling software saves businesses up to 90 hours a week. Check out our platform and start increasing your productivity overnight.
Our survey was run in April of 2023. We surveyed 1,000 employees across America, including full-time, part-time, hybrid, on-site, and remote workers. The employees surveyed represent a wide range of industries and tenure levels. We asked questions around when they’re most productive, what affects their productivity levels, and more.