In the 1980s, everybody was working for the weekend, or so a hit song from the period proclaimed.
Now, working on the weekend is becoming more commonplace in some sectors as layoffs increase and workers seek time to focus, free from the deluge of meetings and other distractions.
The average hours worked on Saturday and Sunday last year increased 5% to 6.6, according to ActivTrak, which analysed almost 175 million hours of work across 134,260 anonymised users of its productivity-management software worldwide.
While just 5% of all workers tracked toiled on the weekend, certain industries, like technology and media, saw a spike of 25% or more hours worked in 2022 compared with a year earlier. The reasons are twofold: Job cuts that have heaped more work on fewer staffers, along with a need to escape the constant interruptions from the likes of Zoom calls and Slack chats that are part of today’s increasingly hybrid workplace.
“With more and more layoff announcements, companies are doing more with less, so where you see an increase in weekend work, it’s in industries that are contracting,” said Gabriela Mauch, vice president of ActivTrak’s productivity lab, which researches trends in its datasets. “As people become more comfortable with flexibility, it’s acceptable to log off at 3pm on a Friday and deal with the work on the weekend.”
The weekend shifts are the latest example of the breakdown in long-held workplace norms wrought by the pandemic, as demands for increased flexibility among employees clash with some employers’ desires to see workers in person at the office more often. While remote work has freed up desk workers in many respects, allowing many to do their job where and when they choose, it’s also tethered them to collaboration and communication tools that can divert their attention with constant notifications. Rising job cuts of late across technology, media and other sectors have also complicated the picture, creating more stress on staffers who are already grappling with record rates of burnout.
The most common weekend warriors were technology staffers in computer hardware and services, according to ActivTrak’s data, along with media workers and those in consumer goods. All of those groups increased their weekend hours last year compared with 2021, most by double-digit percentages. Technology firms have laid off more than 122,000 workers so far this year, according to tracker Layoffs.fyi, and industry leaders like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Marc Benioff have said their workforces need to get more out of fewer workers. Musk, in particular, has told workers to embrace a “hardcore” culture or leave the company.
Other sectors, like energy, hospitality and health care, saw a decline in weekend toiling. One theory behind the divergence, Mauch said, is that industries with a greater share of creative types could see more value in working over the weekend. Service-focused sectors were also more likely to boost their weekend hours. A broader government survey found Americans spent just 1.1 hours working on the weekend in 2021.
The ActivTrak report also found that the average workday in 2022 spanned ten hours and nine minutes, defined by the stretch between the first and last activity on a worker’s computer. Time spent on focused work declined slightly last year, while minutes spent multi-tasking increased by a similar amount. Workers were more productive and focused in the first half of the year compared with the back half, and Tuesday was the most productive day.
“Every culture is different,” Mauch said. “At one organisation, seven hours of work might be appropriate, but in others it’s 12.” – Bloomberg