Science of Self ™ Knowledge Centre

Fascinating Facts, Stats & Studies About the Workplace

Nov 22, 2016

Presentations that influence for decision-making are often filled with relevant facts and statistics that help build your argument. In this article, we've compiled a broad and fascinating list of facts, stats and studies that you may find interesting (and useful) about the workplace.

  • Sitting for at least 8 hours a day could increase the risk of premature death by up to 60%. According to a major study published in the leading medical journal The Lancet, sedentary lifestyles—including hours spent in front of computers at work—are becoming as bad for your health as smoking and drinking, and are causing more deaths than obesity. An hour of exercise per day is recommended to offset these deadly effects. Source.
  • Workplace rudeness costs $14,000 per employee. One study found that the cost of workplace incivility, including rudeness, put-downs, sarcasm, etc., is estimated to average $14,000 per employee (in lost productivity, stress, etc.) and has doubled over the past 20 years. Moreover, those exposed to acts of incivility are more likely to act in a similar way, creating “incivility spirals.” Source.
  • Standing desks could increase productivity by 46%. That’s according to research from the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health. The researchers split 167 employee at a call centre into 2 two groups (one with standing workspaces and one without), and productivity was calculated in terms of how many successful calls were made each hour. Source.
  • The biggest pet peeve in the workplace is “people talking loudly on the phone‚ endlessly talking to colleagues and making a general ruckus.” That’s according to one survey of South Africans, ahead of “people who eat lunch at their desks thereby smelling up the workplace.” The most important thing in the workplace: “Access to good tea and coffee.” Source.
  • Putting a face to employees and customers can increase satisfaction and performance. This is according to Harvard Business School researchers, who designed a 2-week experiment at a college cafeteria. They designed four scenarios: 1) cooks could see the customers 2) customers could see the cooks 3) neither group could see the other 4) both could see each other. The fourth scenario worked best: customer satisfaction increased 17.3% and service was 13.2% faster. Source.
  • People are less happy in open plan offices. Several major studies support this conclusion, including a University of Sydney study that surveyed over 42,000 people, finding the “disadvantages brought by noise disruption were bigger than the predicted benefits of increased interaction.” Source.
  • Distractions cost workers 86 minutes a day. Source.
  • After a distraction, it takes up to 23 minutes to return to flow. Source.
  • The happiest staff work in small businesses fewer than 10 people. Source.
  • The least happy staff work in very large businesses with more than 10,000 people. Source.
  • According to research published in the Harvard Business Review that crunched 25 million job postings, “communication skills” are most in-demand skill. Source.
  • Researchers at Google found that “psychological safety” is the most important element in a team’s success. Source.
  • The perfect work to break ratio is 52:17 (i.e. 52 minutes of work, followed by a 17-minute break). Source.
  • The average office worker checks their email inbox 30 times per day. Source.
  • On average, workers have 8 windows open on their computer at the same time. Source.
  • The average email response time is 23 hours. Source.
  • The average email response time for millennials is 16 minutes. Source.
  • 50% of email replies are sent within the first hour. Source.
  • 70% expect an email response from their coworkers within 4 hours. Source.
  • If you don’t receive an email reply after 48 hours, your chances of ever getting reply are very low. Source.
  • A 2015 British study involving 700 people found a link between “happiness shocks” and productivity. Researchers showed participants either a 10-minute comedy clip or gave them drinks and snacks. Happiness was then rated to ensure it had increased. Next, the participants were given a series of tasks and assessed their levels of productivity. Those who received the happiness shocks were, on average, 12% more productive (20% at the top end), as compared with the control group. Source.
  • Pizza can be a more effective short-term motivator than cash. An experiment involving employees at a semiconductor factory in Israel were offered either 1) pizza 2) a text message compliment from the boss 3) cash bonus equivalent to US$30. Pizza was the most effective short-term motivator early in the week, followed by the compliment, and then cash. As expected, pizza and recognition effects levelled off toward the end of the workweek and ended up a little higher than the control group, BUT strangely the cash bonus “ended up costing the company more and resulted in a 6.5% drop in productivity.” In other words, the employer was better off giving no incentive than giving cash. Source.
  • The average cost to replace an employee is 21.4% of his or her salary. The Centre for American Progress conducted an analysis of 30 studies on employee turnover. They found that the average cost, as a percentage of salary, for replacing an employee is 21.4%, however this can rise as high as 213% for very senior positions (e.g., a $100k CEO would cost $213,000 to replace). These studies focused on direct, quantifiable costs, and not indirect or hidden costs (e.g., lost productivity, damage to customer relationships, team morale). For this reason, other studies might place the cost of staff turnover much higher. Source.
  • The average worker will spend 90,000 hours of their life at work. Source.
  • The average stay at a job is 4 years. Source.
  • 47% of American jobs are at risk of automation in the next 20 years. Source.
  • The quickest path to the c-suite is to work across a wide range of job functions (but not a wide range of industries). This was among the findings of data collected on 459,000 LinkedIn members globally. According to the authors, “Each additional job function provides a boost that’s, on average, equal to three years of work experience.” Switching industries has a slight negative impact on moving up the corporate ladder. Source.

Topics: Employee Engagement- General Business

Theo Winter

Theo Winter

Client Services Manager, Writer & Researcher. Theo is one of the youngest professionals in the world to earn an accreditation in TTI Success Insight's suite of psychometric assessments. For more than a decade, he worked with hundreds of HR, L&D and OD professionals and consultants to improve engagement, performance and emotional intelligence of leaders and their teams. He authored the book "40 Must-Know Business Models for People Leaders."


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