The COVID19 has impacted the lives of everyone, worldwide. The mortality has been at the focus of attention. But many other fields, like economy or ecology, are also investigated to understand the consequences of the virus.
An important area to study is the “remote” trend and the lockdowns that caused it. Whether they are employees or students, many people had to work from home for the past year. Most of their workday takes place in front of a screen. Zoom has replaced in person meetings and commuting is just walking from the bedroom to the living room.
What did lockdowns and remote work cause regarding mental health? Productivity? These questions are difficult to answer, especially quantitatively. Yet, a simple online tool brings surprising insights about a particular aspect of work: procrastination.
A tool for shameless procrastinators
Corrupt-a-File, as the name suggests, is a tool to corrupt files on purpose. Why would one want to corrupt files? To set up this plan:
- Deadline day – 1: There is this report, homework or slides due by tomorrow. You are already late and it is really time to start working on it. But you don’t. This is what procrastination is all about.
- Deadline day: Let’s face it. You won’t make it. An apologetic message seems to be your only option, but Corrupt-a-File offers another option. Submit your work to this service, whatever its progress. Corrupt-a-File gives you a corrupted version of it, one that cannot be properly opened by any software. Send this version to your customer, teacher or boss, pretending it is fine and completed.
- Deadline day + 1: You really start working. You also receive an email: “I can’t open your document?!”.
- Deadline day + 2: You work more. “Really? It works fine on my computer”, you answer.
- Deadline day + 3: You’re almost done. “Can you send it to me again?”
- Deadline day + 4: Work completed and sent. Well done.
This scenario is morally dubious. It forces you to lie and can make you look suspicious in the eyes of your recipient. Therefore, it should be practiced rarely, if at all.
By studying the traffic of Corrupt-a-File, we can get an understanding of the impact of lockdowns on procrastination, new procrastination patterns, and differences between countries.
Before investigating 2020 and 2021, let’s dive into previous years to understand how Corrupt-a-File was used in the pre-COVID era.
This article show curves of the amount of visitors per day or week, from Google Analytics. This is how a regular year looks like:
There are four phases in a regular year:
- From January to May, the traffic is high. It initially grows and then decreases, with a slight drop at Easter.
- From June to August, the traffic is low and its curve has the shape of a bowl.
- From September to early December, the traffic is high again.
- End of December : traffic drops.
This curve reflects the activity worldwide. Most students stop working during the summer, along with many employees. And most countries have public holidays on new year eve.
The traffic varies during a typical week. Saturday is the day with the least traffic. Unsurprisingly, the workweek has more visitors.
A note about Monday, which usually experiences a slight peak, and Sunday, which sees as much traffic as a regular workweek: this is probably when the procrastination hits most. When people realize that the weekend and their good intentions were not enough.
2017, 2018 and 2019 have demonstrated similar trends. The only significant discrepancy is an increase of traffic during the fall of 2019. Yet, the shape of 2019 is rather similar to the ones of the previous years.
Here comes the lockdown
Lockdown is arguably the most emblematic measure used to fight the COVID. Does it have an impact on procrastination? By filtering the traffic per country, we obtain curves that speak for themselves.
In many countries where a nationwide lockdown was established in March 2020, the traffic of Corrupt-a-File doubled almost overnight.
This phenomenon is clearly the consequence of lockdowns. Had Corrupt-a-File become famous due to, say, buzz on social media, the increase in traffic would have been global. There would be no such country-specific surges. Or, at least, these surges would not have been so closely correlated with lockdowns.
In addition, most of Corrupt-a-File traffic is from search engines, not social media. In other words, most users are individuals who typed “corrupt file” on Google, seeking a solution to a problem. Not social media friends contributing together to an overnight buzz.
A COVID-era pattern: Friday spikes
As said earlier, Monday used to be the most busy day. For example, the week from October 27th to November 2nd 2019:
Now, the shape of a regular week is very different, with Friday being the other star on the stage:
This pattern was seldom observed pre-COVID. From February 20th 2019 to March 15th 2020, it occurred only 3 times (out of 55 weeks). But since lockdowns were established, from March 15th 2020 to April 7th 2021, Friday spikes occurred 21 times (again, out of 55 weeks).
The explanation of this change in behavior is not straightforward. It might be due to the distance — both physical and emotional — between the producer and the consumer. In other words, it is easier to trick your boss when you don’t see him and when your workweek is over as soon as you close your laptop. Or the reason might be deeper, with procrastination striking harder at the end of the workweek than it used to.
The explosion of procrastination
The graphic from January 2017 to March 2021 says it all.
Corrupt-a-File has been relatively stable for the past few years. There was an increase in traffic during fall 2019. But the real change takes place in March 2020 with the first lockdowns.
In 2019, there were 300K visitors. In 2020, this figure more than tripled, to 1M.
In January and February 2020 (the two COVID-free months of 2020), there were 60K visitors. This figure rose to 320K during the same months of 2021, by a 5+ factor.
We might think of the situation as a binary pre- and post-COVID setting. This is not the case. We can compare the periods from March 15th (because many lockdowns started around this date in 2020) to April 8th (because this article is written on April 9th 2021):
Had the COVID-era been stable, figures from 2020 and 2021 would have been similar. This is clearly not the case, with traffic more than doubling. The popularity of the service and returning visitors can partly explain this evolution, but only for a small portion of the traffic. Most people come from Google and didn’t use Corrupt-a-File before.
Discrepancies between countries
Many countries exhibit the same pattern. The first wave of lockdowns of March 2020 generated a increase in traffic. The second wave in the fall of 2020 often saw a larger increase.
For the third wave, the pattern diverges. Several countries experience a traffic higher than before, like the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
In some other countries, like United States and France, the third wave hits less than the second one.
Germany: a worrying, exponential evolution
Germany’s case is unique. It is exponential. This trend is unique in Corrupt-a-File stats and very troubling. What causes a 6 times increase between March 2020 and March 2021?
Israel: a sign of hope for vaccination campaigns
Israel is certainly an interesting case, since this country is the most advanced regarding the vaccination of its population.
Whereas the country follows the same high-first-wave-then-very-high-second-wave pattern, there is a clear drop during the third wave. And this is not a periodic trend of Israel: in 2019, traffic during January, February and March was almost constant.
With so many comments about the impact of the COVID and lockdown on mental health, the review of Corrupt-a-File’s analytics offers original insights. It takes a new look at procrastination in the context of a massive, unwanted work-from-home movement.
The analysis reveals an explosion of procrastination around the world, with an overall increase while the crisis continues. A new pattern even emerged: a surge of procrastination on Fridays.
While many countries share the same trend, some experience a worsening (Germany), while others might see the early benefits of the vaccination campaigns (Israel).