This is why we should all be doing 3-hour workdays, according to experts

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Helen Booth
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A new survey has made a startling discovery – over the course of an eight-hour workday, the average employee spends over five hours doing other things beside work, including eating, socialising, or reading the news.

The study, carried out by Voucher Cloud, polled 1,989 full-time office workers aged over 18 as part of research into the online habits and productivity of workers across the UK.

Respondents were asked, ‘Do you consider yourself to be productive throughout the entire working day?’ to which a whopping 79% answered ‘no’. Just 21% believed that they were truly productive for the entirety of the working day.

When asked to estimate how much time they actually spent being productive in the course of a work day, the average answer came out as ‘two hours and 53 minutes’.

The survey then looked into what activities were causing office workers the most distraction. Checking social media came top of the list, with 47% of respondents admitting to logging in to Facebook or Twitter while they were supposed to be working, closely followed by browsing news websites and chatting with coworkers about non-work related topics.

The top 10 responses in full were as follows:

1. Checking social media – 47%
2. Reading news websites – 45%
3. Discussing out-of-work activities with colleagues – 38%
4. Making hot drinks – 31%
5. Smoking breaks – 28%
6. Text/instant messaging – 27%
7. Eating snacks – 25%
8. Making food in office – 24%
9. Making calls to partner/friends- 24%
10. Searching for new jobs – 19%

While it might seem like a no-brainer to blame workers for indulging in shameful time wasting habits, there is plenty of research to suggest that a shorter working day might actually benefit employees and companies alike.

Speaking to UK Business Insider, K. Anders Ericsson, an expert on the psychology of work, explained that shortening the working day might be key to curtailing procrastination in the workplace. “If you're pushing people well beyond that time they can really concentrate maximally, you're very likely to get them to acquire some bad habits,” said Ericsson.

People who are regularly pushed past their productive limits might struggle more in the long term, he reasoned. For example, if a worker spends time browsing Facebook during an afternoon work lull, they might feel more comfortable doing the same thing the next morning.

The majority of those surveyed didn’t believe it would be possible to remain productive for an entire working day. In fact, only 35% answered ‘yes’ to the question ‘Do you think that you could get through the working day without partaking in any distractions?’. The remaining 65% of respondents believed that ‘no’ they couldn’t.

54% of those who answered ‘no’ explained that the distractions listed above made the working day ‘more bearable’. They also felt that their productivity during the rest of the working day ‘benefited from the intermittent breaks’.

For those who struggle with the eight-hour working day, hope is in sight. A number of UK companies have adopted Sweden’s six-hour working day policy, flexible work schedules are on the rise, and alternative work patterns are becoming more socially acceptable.

One day, the traditional 9-5 could be a thing of the past.

Image: iStock



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Helen Booth

Helen Booth is a London-based writer, digital editor and part-time maker who loves interiors, crafts and keeping tabs on trends. She also co-founded the weekly newsletter Lunch Hour Links.