Toggl Blog

How much do we slow down during holidays? A Toggl analysis.

You always hear about those studies that have found that American workers log the most working hours per capita in the world. Or that Germany is the most hard-working nation in Europe. Or that in Scandinavia, jobs are simply a way to make money for free time. We started wondering one day whether this is also reflected in Toggl users’ behaviour…

So we took a total of 3.5 million hours that were tracked with Toggl during 5 weeks between December 2012 and February 2013, and looked at them with the help of Google Analytics. We normalized the results to equal scales so that they’d be comparable and then put the data into charts to illustrate what came out. We will now share with you the fascinating stuff that was revealed with this about the real working (Toggling) habits around the world.

The most hardcore workers live in East Asia

We started with some overall comparisons of activity levels during holiday versus non-holiday seasons in North America, Europe and East Asia.

E vs A

The biggest slowdown for both North American and European users was Christmas when activity levels in North America dropped by 52% and in Europe by a whole 63%. East Asia’s peak slowdown came a bit later, during the New Year festivities, and was much lower, with a total drop of only 35%. Looks like Christmas is not celebrated quite as widely over there. We predicted the Chinese New Year (mid-February) to have a fairly strong effect on East Asia’s activity, so were surprised to find in fact the opposite with their 22% increase from original activity levels. Respect to all the hard-working East Asians!

Northern Europe: work hard, play hard?

Digging into a bit more detail, we split Europe to Southern and Northern, leaving North America on the graph for a baseline also.

SE vs NE

What a finding! Despite all the talk of siestas and three-hour lunches in Greece, Italy, Spain and the likes, Southern Europe’s Christmas slowdown of 53% tells a different story since it’s totally on a level with North America’s 52%. The Scandinavians, though, fit their stereotype perfectly – they take their holidays very seriously with a whopping 72% drop in activity. This is a record for all the regions. Once the Northern Europeans return to work, though, they also beat all other regions with their 25% increase in activity by February. I guess they live by the work hard, play hard mantra?

East vs West

The average amount of paid holidays in Italy, France and Germany is 38 days (how nice!). Where does that stand in comparison to Eastern European countries who are also known to get quite a few paid days off?

WE vs EE

With a drop of only 45%, East Europeans seem to be the next hardest working nation over Christmas after East Asians. Although, the drop rate in East Asia was only 8% then, so actually the two areas should probably not be mentioned in the same sentence.. :) With their 66% drop in activity, West Europeans seem to have fully enjoyed their Christmas. During New Year celebrations, though, East and West Europe both level out to a 37% slowdown while North America returns to work much sooner, being only 18% less active than in Mid-December. By February, East Europeans are heavily back at work, with their eventual 19% increase in activity. West Europe resembles the South more here, with their mere 5% and 6% increases in activity rates in the beginning of 2013. I wonder if it’s the cold and the snow that’s driving all the Northerners back into their working habits so much faster..?

So, an overview

Drop per region

When we talk about taking time off during holidays, it seems that East Asia is the least interested in this with their maximum drop in activity at only 35% over New Year. All other regions in this study took the most time off during Christmas, Northern Europe’s activity levels dropping the most – by a whole 72%! They bounced back the fastest as well, being 25% more active in February than they were in mid-December. North America ranks somewhere in the middle in their taking time off (max drop 52%) as well as getting back to work in February (peak increase 13%).

Of course in the end what matters is not how many hours you track, but the actual productivity of the work that you do within those hours and what you track them to. Which holidays do you take the most of? With Easter coming up, will we see major drops in activity on Good Friday?

Disclaimer: This analysis is not based on and does not try to be any serious academic work. It is purely speculative conclusions drawn from the statistics of Toggl usage.

Liisa Toompuu

Liisa spent twelve years as an exchange student. No one in the office is quite sure how that’s possible. If she explains it to you, please let us know. You can follow her on Twitter @liisatoompuu
  • Show 15 Comments

    1. Mikaël
      March 15, 2013 | Permalink

      Interesting graphs, nice work !
      I reflected on my own records and it came to me I also log holidays. So I’ll show up working in your graphs while in fact I was out of office.

    2. Ethan
      March 15, 2013 | Permalink

      Interesting, fun! Thanks for sharing.

    3. Steve
      March 15, 2013 | Permalink

      Interesting, but for it to be really meaning full if your going to compare to Asia and East Europe, wouldn’t it be necessary to include some other cultural holidays as well. Westerners tend to take Xmas fairly seriously and it is so close to New Years that they affect each other in terms of time people take off. I dont really know what holidays other cultures observe, or how, but It would be interesting to see what these graphs look like over some of them. I know at the company I work at, our Chinese folks thin out a lot during the spring and fall festivals. What do folks in the former soviet republics do during their Labor day or May day? which I believe were both big in eastern European countries. I’m probably wrong but I just sense this isn’t the whole picture.

    4. Beth
      March 15, 2013 | Permalink

      Thanks for this analysis — I really enjoyed seeing the numbers broken down this way. Kudos!

    5. Corporate User
      March 15, 2013 | Permalink

      Interesting, but I am concerned about use of private data. Is this data from Free accounts only or was data from Paid Corporate accounts aggregated and used for this analysis?

    6. March 15, 2013 | Permalink

      Thank you everyone for this feedback, I really appreciate it!

      @Steve – there’s definitely tons more interesting data out there, here we indeed only looked at a small portion. Thanks for the tip ;)

      @Corporate User – the data for the analysis came from Google Analytics that tracked anonymous clicks on Toggl website. There is no way to connect those clicks to any user’s real data. The total time entry duration indicated in the beginning of the article is a summary of all tracked hours throughout this time and no single user’s data was looked at for this analysis. Data privacy is a very important matter for us and we continue to look after it very carefully.

    7. André Fehrmann
      March 15, 2013 | Permalink

      Hello and sorry, I think I have to correct you a little.

      I’m from germany and we have in this country an amount of 24 [ especially the creative ones! ] to 30 paid holidays, not 38 days. I don’t even know a company how will give more than 30 days here in germany.
      But you’re absolutly right when it comes to france. They got an average of 37,5 days a year of paid holidays. Italy is somewhere in between with 33 days.

      Cheers, André

    8. Toggle User
      March 16, 2013 | Permalink

      I don’t know if I would agree with these results unless they portrayed the entire year. Mid-December until Mid-January most of the web development dies down since most retailers are finishing up from Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I would be interested to see what this looked like from October through January when the surge of “Change this on my website before thanksgiving” rush begins. I think this chart points out a cycle but does not necessarily imply that the US is lazy. In order to have billable consulting work during this timeframe you have to have billable requests and during this time shown here it is very slow for consulting work in the US.

      So I don’t buy into these very slated results. I think a full year of stats might portray different picture. So there is the challenge!

    9. Liron
      March 17, 2013 | Permalink

      hi, I couldn’t find any other way to contact you – there is no help center.

      I can’t log in to my account after the update you made today. I tried to resent my password twice and still nothing. That’s disappointing since I do like your app.

      Please help,


    10. Piet Delport
      March 18, 2013 | Permalink

      What about Africa?

    11. Toggl Support
      March 18, 2013 | Permalink

      @Liron Please write to us to support(at)toggl(dot)com and describe your account e-mail and problem some more. Where are you attempting to log in? Toggl web, Desktop or mobile app? What kind of error message do you get?

    12. Hope Foster Reyes
      March 20, 2013 | Permalink

      I think it’s important to point out that this chart says a lot more about how important Christmas and New Year’s are to people from different regions than it does about how hard they work. I’d agree that a year’s worth of data would be more telling.

      And of course comparing how “hard-working” someone is based on whether they continue to work on a holiday isn’t as telling as how much actual work a person logs in a typical week or a complete year.

      Still, good fun and a good read!

    13. Vítor Baptista
      March 23, 2013 | Permalink

      Interesting read, but I agree with the other commenters: it would be better to see a year’s worth of data, and as a brazilian, to see data from other parts of the world. Maybe in part 2 for this post? :-)

    14. Luciano Filho
      March 28, 2013 | Permalink

      Very interesting reading! And I agree with @Vitor Baptista. So when will we have part 2?

    15. Victor
      March 30, 2013 | Permalink

      I’m just wondering how many people use Toggl to track their personal activities, not just for a job. I’m a one who use it for both parts of my life. It could impact the results a bit.

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