It is no secret that things around the office (back in the days of offices) slow down on Fridays. Calendars that look like Jenga™ towers Monday-Thursday suddenly have conspicuous gaps on Friday and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a person brave (or foolish) enough to schedule a meeting on Friday after 2:00 PM. But while this behaviour is generally acknowledged, there is relatively little data quantifying the productivity decline, particularly in marketing & creative. The RoboHead 10000, Aquent’s recently published index that tracks marketing activity across multiple industries and regions, allows us to not only quantify this phenomenon but also create a more complete picture of how productivity is impacted on everyone’s favourite "work" day.
The index combines a variety of metrics to provide an accurate gauge of activity during all phases of a project: requests submitted, projects created, tasks assigned, notes created, reviews created, and review responses/approvals received. Using this measure, we see that overall productivity drops an average of 17.4% on Fridays compared to other workdays. Tuesday actually has the most activity, closely followed by Monday, but the overall variance Monday-Thursday is less than 6%; only on Friday do we see a significant deviation from the norm. However, the numbers show significant variation when we start looking at individual measures. While new project-starts decline by just under 18% and general collaborative tasks (notes created, review feedback, etc.) decline by more than 20%, task completions decline by only 12.1%, and only 10.3% fewer hours are logged by those tracking time.
From these numbers, it appears that collaborative activities are most impacted, likely because they are highly dependent on multiple team members’ availability. Work that is more individual in nature is less affected and in fact, may be helped by a natural desire to “close out” work at the end of the week.
With the vast majority of marketing and creative resources working remotely in the post-COVID world, this gives us a golden opportunity to assess how working from home impacts Friday productivity. Surprisingly, the figures indicate the effect is negligible.
While overall activity on Fridays has declined an additional 1.6% post-COVID, tasks are actually being completed at a higher rate than they were before remote work became the norm. In any case, all the individual post-COVID metrics are within +/- 3% of their pre-COVID values suggesting working from home has neither accelerated nor discouraged Friday’s productivity decline. However, it is interesting to note that while working from home has had little effect on what’s being done on Friday, it has impacted the percentage of work being performed on the weekend. Overall weekend activity is up 7.4% and task completions are up 14.2% compared to their pre-COVID values.
So now that we've seen the numbers, what have we learned? First, Friday productivity declines are real, but perhaps not as dramatic within marketing and creative teams as rumoured. Analysis done by other project management systems has reported declines anywhere from 20% — 35%, significantly higher than that we observed. Second, Friday seems to have a more significant impact on collaborative activities that require the participation of multiple team members. Finally, working from home has not had a specific impact on Friday’s productivity, but there are some signs that employees are taking advantage of the flexibility that comes from working from home to complete work during non-traditional periods.
For businesses it's reassuring to hear that nobody is writing off Fridays just yet, and that coronavirus hasn't made us less effective. It might make sense to consider planning around the ebbs and flows, taking advantage of Tuesday's boost in activity and scheduling new projects or collaborative tasks for the beginning of the week.