The 28 Most Unproductive Days of the Year: Ranking the Impact of Holidays at Work

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We all know that the retail industry gets slammed from Black Friday through Christmas Eve, but what happens to the rest of the business world? How much do people continue to work over the holidays?

28 unproductive days year

Business Software Research = Work

Given that Capterra is a website dedicated to helping people find software for their business, our website traffic is a pretty decent indicator of how much people (except those in retail) are actually working. In fact, I’ve been monitoring our website traffic for over a decade now, and the dips that accompany the holidays are like clockwork. For kicks, I decided to dig into our site analytics and measure exactly how large the traffic dips are around all of the holidays, not just Christmas.

Here are four noteworthy facts that stood out: Holiday-traffic-drops_updated

  1. No surprise here – Christmas Day witnesses the largest decline with 55% less activity than normal. Christmas Eve is a close #2 with 49% less than normal. It is somewhat surprising (to me) that the dips are not even greater than that though. A lot of people continue to actually work (not just monitor their email but perform actual research for their business) on the largest national holiday of the year.
  2. To further drive home the point of the impact of Christmas and New Year’s combined, every single day from December 18 through January 2 witnesses a double digit decrease in activity.
  3. MLK, Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day, and Columbus Day did not register a material decrease! I’m most surprised by MLK – I would have thought that more people would take that as a work holiday.
  4. Halloween made the list with a 10% dip! Gotta get home for trick-or-treating!

So is any of this actionable?

If you are B2B (your customers are other businesses) then I see three main takeaways.

  • First, don’t stop any of your Pay-Per-Action advertising efforts such as paid search. People continue to work so you can continue to reach them, and only pay for the ones that you actually reach. In fact, you may have less competition now since some advertisers will wrongfully assume that they should stop advertising on holidays.
  • Second, you should expect to pay less for advertising that is not Pay-Per-Action. For example, if you pay a fixed amount per month for a newsletter promotion, then your December payment should be less than the rest of the year.
  • Third, less people working means less sales and support opportunities, so you should be able to reduce your staffing needs during the holidays. Do you go completely dark? I suppose that depends on your priorities. While some prospects and customers will love the fact that you still have availability on holidays, others will respect the fact that you are trying to be generous toward your employees. Dare to be generous!

The Data

It is worth noting that 55-60% of our traffic is from the United States. Over 20% is from the UK, Canada, and Australia combined. The remaining 20% is from the rest of the world, but our site is only in English. So our data is heavily skewed geographically. I also removed paid campaigns from my analysis in order to remove any impact from changes in advertiser behavior. Finally, I ignored fluctuations that did not reach a 10% threshold to try to remove as much noise as I could. The holidays with a measurable dip are included in the accompanying chart.

Type of Work

The beauty of using traffic levels for a B2B website as a barometer for work patterns is that performing work-related online research can be done at any time. No one is slowed down by the fact that most of the country is unavailable for meetings and sales calls. Makes me wonder, without meetings and phone calls to worry about, are holidays becoming some of the most productive days of the year – at least for some segment of the population?

Please feel free to share your holiday data or observations in the comments!

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About the Author

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Michael Ortner

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Mike started Capterra in 1999 as the first website dedicated to helping people find the right software for their business. Today, Capterra lists over 30,000 software companies, displays more than 250,000 software reviews, and receives over 3,000,000 monthly visitors. He's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Fox News, and Inc. Magazine, among other publications, where he's spoken on topics ranging from the business software industry to running and growing a business in the 21st century. Mike received a business degree from Georgetown University and a philosophy degree from the University of London. He lives in McLean, VA with his wife and six children.

Comments

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Would it be possible to get an updated version of this data? This is incredibly fascinating and we’ve used it in our company in the past to assign Holidays on unproductive days, but I want to make sure the information is still accurate given that this was done almost 6 years ago.

Thanks for all this!

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Mike, this is fascinating stuff! Thanks for sharing it! A couple observations, if I may …

There is some “conventional wisdom” that says Fridays also are weak business days. But over 27 years in business, we have found the opposite … in that people who ARE at business on Fridays are ready to DO business on Fridays. Great day for closing sales, less so for opening dialogues.

My son Jeff is an inside sales rep for a high tech supplier. He and his colleagues worked the day after Thanksgiving and, no surprise, the BtoB world was mostly closed. The surprise was that the Monday AFTER Thanksgiving was quite weak, with many BtoB prospects and customers still away.

Cheers!

Michael A. Brown
http://www.BtoBEngage.com

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Thanks for sharing the analytics data.

In my opinion, there is one group of people that actually prefers researching software during holidays/weekends: people that are considering starting their own business. For someone with a day job, the only free time they have for research is their time off.

You might want to look into the product categories that maintain traffic when others fall. If they’re overwhelmingly ones that are relevant to businesses that are just starting up, then that might inform the kind of promotions/messages that you send out during the holidays.

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