The 9–5 workday is dead: New research shows 92% of people work on evenings and weekends (even before the pandemic)

Even before the coronavirus pandemic completely changed the way we work and live, the traditional “workday” had become a relic of the past. According to our latest survey of 850+ knowledge workers from around the globe, 92% say they regularly work in the evenings and on weekends.

This feels like a huge step backward.

Every major tech advancement—especially how we communicate and collaborate—has promised to free our days from the drudgery of the 9–5. Apps like Slack and Zoom were supposed to reduce communication and let us work whenever and wherever we want

However, according to our data, we’re putting in more hours than ever, working earlier and later in the day, and letting work into our weekends.

We need to know what’s causing these issues if we’re going to address them head-on.

Here’s what we learned about the biggest issues stressing out the modern worker and how the workday became “all day.”

Communication Overload: Email and chat control our days from morning to night

According to our survey, 34% of people check their email as soon as they wake up. While another 47% do so within the first 30 minutes of work.

At the other end of the spectrum, fewer than 10% of people said they wait an hour or longer before checking.  

Not only are these “check-ins” bringing work into your morning and evenings, but the constant pull of these tools is actively breaking down your focus.

We know that context switching—even just quickly checking email—can kill up to 80% of your productive time a day. Yet still, 72% of people say they keep their communication apps open all day long.  

Not only do constant interruptions by communication tools make you less productive overall they also change your priorities. Checking email early and often puts you in reactive mode.

Instead of taking time to prioritize your most important tasks, you’re thrown into crisis mode dealing with “urgent” updates and tasks.  

All this leads to more time on communication and less time on the work that matters. 

In fact, we found that 51% of people said their average time on communication during the workday has increased in the last 3–5 years. (While only 16% said it has decreased over the same time period).

Higher expectations: Only 5% of people say they finish their daily tasks every day

Nonstop communication is squeezing our already full days to the point of breaking. However, expectations haven’t changed to help accommodate our busier days.

According to our survey, only 5% of people say they finish their daily tasks “every day”. Another 35% said they hit their goals “most days”. However, a combined 60% only finish their tasks sometimes, rarely, or almost never. 

So what gets in the way of finishing your daily tasks? 

The short answer is too much work, no clear priorities, and personal obligations.

As we’ve written in the past, we often fall victim to the planning fallacy—an overly optimistic view of what we can complete in a day that causes us to overcommit.

While 25% of people said their biggest challenge is “too much work”, even more people place blame on “a lack of clear priorities.”

All this has caused people to be more stressed than ever about work.

When we asked people how they felt about their current workload, almost 40% said they “sometimes feel overwhelmed” by their daily workload while another 21% say they “have to work extra to keep up.”

Work-life balance in 2020: 40% of people say they feel overwhelmed by their daily workload. Share on X

In the end, the majority of people we spoke to said they get to the end of the day and wonder “Did I accomplish anything today?”

Longer and More Variable Hours: Only 38% of people said they work fewer than 8 hours 

At this point, you can probably see a clear pattern emerging. Nonstop communication kills our productivity and focus, which gives us less time to focus on our daily tasks. And the result? Longer workdays. 

Our survey found that only 38% of people work fewer than 8 hours each day with 29% working 9+ hours a day.

Longer hours have become the norm, with 40% of people saying their average workday has increased over the past 3–5 years. However, the overall length of the average workday isn’t the only problem. 

Just as communication has found its way into all parts of our day, so has our work. Only 38% of people we spoke to said they work a 9–5 schedule or similar. In fact, nearly the same amount of people say they’re “working throughout the entire day (always available).”  

The workday never ends: 36% of people work “throughout the entire day and are always available.”  Share on X

Looking forward: Learning new tools and skills will be the norm

Expectations are only one part of the equation when it comes to why people are working more. There’s also the uncertainty of what your job will look like in the future (especially in our current situation).

When we asked people what factors will have the biggest impact on how they work in the future, 44% said they expect to have to learn new workplace tools while another 28% said they think their skills will become outdated. 

All this adds even more pressure to work harder and longer just to “keep up”.

Does this sound like you? RescueTime can help you take back control of your time

We hate to be pessimists. But it’s hard to ignore just how long and unmanageable the workday has become for many people.

The separation between “work” and “life” has all but disappeared. And the more uncertain our futures become, the more we feel we need to be available and work. 

However, all these long hours and added stress can only lead to one outcome: burnout. 

Instead of letting your workday get away from you, you need to be aware of where your time actually goes. This is exactly why we built RescueTime

RescueTime is a suite of productivity and time management tools that help you rebuild your focus, be more aware of where your time goes, and block distractions so you’re not wasting time multitasking, context switching or getting easily interrupted. 

We also provide reports and analytics that show you exactly where your time goes each day, which apps and tools you use the most, and whether you’re overworking and at risk of burnout. 

If you want to reverse the trend of overwork, you need to be aware of your time. Sign up for a free 14-day trial of RescueTime and see how we can help you be more in control of your day.

Jory MacKay

Jory MacKay is a writer, content marketer, and editor of the RescueTime blog.

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