Whether you are a knowledge worker trying to understand what life looks like for your peers or a journalist trying to understand the average knowledge worker, these stats will help you make sense of what’s what. These statistics will help you understand what influences knowledge workers, how they work and what they value.
1. How many knowledge workers are there in the world?
The latest statistics show that there are 1 billion knowledge workers in the world, which account for 28.5% of the total global labor force.
In the United States there are 100 million knowledge workers accounting for 60.6% of the total labor force of 165 million people. It has been forecast that over the coming decades the percentage of knowledge workers in the global workforce will approach 50%.
This growth towards the US share is important because knowledge workers drive productivity and economic growth by providing the “glue” inside global businesses. They power core capabilities and functionalities from engineering and product development to financial accounting, and everything in between.
2. How many hours are knowledge workers productive for each day?
The average knowledge worker is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes per day.
Working the standard 9am to 5pm day, the average knowledge worker will fill the available 8 hours with 3 hours of work, 2 hours on non-work-related activities, 2 hours of lunch and rest breaks, and 1 hour of other activities including socializing and procrastination.
3. How much more productive is top talent?
Superior talent can be up to 8x more productive than average knowledge workers.
The difference in productivity between the bottom 25% and top 25% of knowledge workers does not grow linearly. Top 25% talent is magnitudes more productive. That means organizations should put their best efforts into identifying and retaining top talent.
4. How many times are knowledge workers interrupted during the day?
The average employee is interrupted from their work 56 times a day.
What’s more, the average worker can take up to 23 minutes to regain focus after an interruption and spends two hours a day recovering from interruptions, which means 28% of the workday is spent focusing on unnecessary distractions.
5. How many knowledge workers are engaged with their work?
Based on survey results, at any given time 15% of global employees are engaged in their work, and 18% of workers are actively disengaged. If you multiply it by the 1 billion total knowledge workers in the world, it means that 150 million workers are engaged and a shocking 180 million knowledge workers are not engaged with their work.
The annual losses from lost productivity due to employee disengagement are estimated to be between $483 billion and $605 billion. By focusing on employee engagement, organizations can tap into a massive uplift in value. For example, an increase in employee engagement can increase retention rates by up to 87% and high levels of positive employee experience increase the level of discretionary effort by 100%.
Studies have found that engaged workers contribute to a 17% increase in overall productivity. So it’s worth the effort to focus on employee engagement.
6. How does stress impact knowledge workers?
Work-related stress costs businesses approximately $602 per employee each year.
On any given day it is estimated that one million workers are absent from work due to work-related stress. That means around 250 million workdays and over $600 billion in productivity are lost because of workplace stress.
Even worse, 41% of stressed employees state that stress negatively affects productivity so even when they are present, stress is impacting their performance.
7. How many emails do knowledge workers receive each day?
Over 250 billion emails are sent each day around the world, and the average worker receives 121 emails per day. However, employees open only 24% of the emails they receive.
In the end, knowledge workers spend an average of about 28% of their work week reading or responding to emails and Atlassian, the software company, has estimated that the annual cost of unnecessary emails is $1,800 per employee.
There’s a solution to this email hell though, and it lies in better use of technology. It is estimated that by fully utilizing social technologies for communication, the average productivity of knowledge workers could increase by 20 to 25%.
8. How many meetings do knowledge workers have each day?
The average knowledge worker attends 3 meetings per day.
This averages out to roughly 63 meetings every month, with the time spent in meetings rising by 8% to 10% annually since 2000. Here’s the kicker, 50% of these meetings are considered a waste of time by knowledge workers. So workers sit in 31.5 unproductive meetings each month.
Unnecessary meetings cost $37 billion in salaries for US businesses every year. A reason to pause and think before you send out your next calendar invite.
9. How do knowledge workers feel about remote work?
Over 80% of knowledge workers believe that they don’t have to work in an office to be productive and 67% of employers see an increase in productivity from remote workers.
Just to push this over the edge, during the great work from home experiment during COVID-19, a 2021 survey found that 71% of employees and 83% of employers deemed working from home a success.
The evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of allowing knowledge workers the option to do remote work. Organizations just need to manage exhaustion from videoconferences (experienced by 49% of remote employees) , a lack of social interaction (reported by 56% of remote employees) and distractions like social media and gaming.
10. Do knowledge workers have work-life balance?
Notably, 66% of knowledge workers don’t feel like they have a work-life balance.
Turns out that their employers largely agree, with only 23% of companies believing that they promote work-life balance in their organization. The data confirms this with 94% of service professionals working over 50 hours each week, even though the average workweek is only 35 hours.
It’s important for organizations to keep work-life balance in mind because it leads to happier and longer-lasting employees and because it has been found that employers that encourage work-life balance double their company’s productivity.
Summary: Knowledge Worker Statistics
- There are 1 billion knowledge workers in the world.
- The average employee is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes per day.
- Superior talent can be up to 8x more productive than average workers.
- The average employee is interrupted from their work 56 times a day.
- Just 15% of global employees are engaged in their work, and 18% of workers are actively disengaged.
- Work-related stress costs businesses approximately $602 per employee each year.
- The average worker receives 121 emails per day, but reads only 28% of the emails they receive.
- The average knowledge worker attends 3 meetings per day.
- Over 80% of knowledge workers believe that they don’t have to work in an office to be productive.
- Notably, 66% of knowledge workers don’t feel like they have a work-life balance.
I hope these stats helped you understand the current state of today’s knowledge workers, and highlighted some changes that are impacting professionals. All told, there are over 1 billion knowledge workers in the world who have a big impact on the economy, and society. I hope these statistics have made it clearer who they are, challenges they face and how they work. If you want to go even deeper you should read my post on 150+ knowledge worker statistics.
Before you go: I have interviewed 500+ professionals, surveyed thousands more, and I am always probing for their best tips, tricks and hacks to get ahead. There are five that stand out above the rest and you can get them right now by joining my free email list. You won’t find these ideas anywhere else.