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Beware the Ides of December and avoid a productivity assassination

Ides is what the ancient Romans named the midpoint of the month (the 13th or 15th day).

Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March in 44 BC, despite being warned of impending doom. His death triggered a series of civil wars that resulted in the end of the Roman Republic.

Don’t be like Julius. Heed my warning about the Ides of December.

And Fridays.

Fizzling out on Fridays

Priceonomics analysed data from project management software company Redbooth and found that Fridays were nearly 20 percent less productive than Mondays.

Texas A&M University researchers tracked 789 in-office employees over 2 years and found they were less active and more mistake-prone on afternoons and Fridays, the lowest point of worker productivity.

Instead of relying on self-reporting surveys, this study monitored objective computer usage metrics (typing speed, typing errors, and mouse activity), then compared patterns across different days of the week and times of the day.

The researchers suggested that “mounting stress and mental and physiological fatigue as the workweek progresses” could be the cause.

Downtime December

December, being the slackest time of the year for many non-retail businesses, is like a month of Fridays.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), we worked 9.5 million fewer hours in December 2022 than we did in the November before it.

A few years ago, a Go People survey revealed that 15 December is the least productive day of the year (frequently due to post-corporate Christmas party hangovers), costing the Australian economy $12.8 million.

And this year 15 December falls on – yep – a Friday!!

Wellness and resilience expert Gina Brooks told the Sunday Mail that productivity levels can drop by almost 40 percent in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Dr Julia Harris, writing for Medical Press, said the “Festive Fizzleout” has this impact on productivity:

“Workers reported varying degrees of productivity loss. Over two-thirds (68 percent) were less productive throughout the entire month of December compared to other months, with nearly one-half admitting they did 10-20 percent less work and 1 in 6 produced 20-30 percent less. The reasons for this output reduction included a combination of exhaustion, lack of motivation and hangovers.”

A study by project management platform Teamwork confirmed December as the year’s least productive month. After reviewing more than 25 million user-completed tasks completed over 12 months, it discovered that we’re almost 50 percent less productive than we are in October (the most productive month).

But we know that December disappearances – of bodies at desks and minds on the job – start every year shortly after the tree tinsel starts twinkling. It is the silly season after all.

Here’s why December feels like a month full of Fridays…

…particularly for project managers, team leaders, and HR professionals:

  • Hungover workers distract their functioning colleagues when reliving the party highlights to avoid work requiring brain effort.
  • Workers who are also parents take leave days to attend end-of-year school/ballet/band concerts and swimming carnivals.
  • Workers who are not parents also take leave to grab a few days’ break before holiday spots are swarming with school-aged kids.
  • People prefer to work from home because they can’t stand Christmas carols playing nonstop in commercial buildings.
  • People are winding down for the key holidays.
  • Projects have wound up so invoices can be issued well before the end of the year and new ones won’t be kicking off until at least mid-January when most people are back on deck.
  • General end-of-year tiredness and over-it-ness.

The ABS cites these as the top 5 reasons for working less last December:

  1. Taking leave (annual, holiday, long-service, flex-time)
  2. Illness or injury
  3. Personal reasons, e.g. caring for unwell family members
  4. Bad weather
  5. Equipment/plant breakdown

So, what you can do to be team-productive when work-productive is too much to expect?

If you’d rather December didn’t feel like a month full of Fridays, book in some fun but educational experiences to make use of the energy difference, like…

Or you could do all that filing that’s been piling up…

Yeah, nah.

Let’s talk through what you would rather do in a complimentary Tell Me More call.

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