DeskTime data dive: the most and least productive apps of 2023

Ieva Sipola 25.01.2024
The most and least productive apps of 2023

As we’re closing the chapter on last year and turning the page for the next, it’s exciting to examine last year’s productivity data from DeskTime time-tracking software users. Isn’t it intriguing to compare your own work patterns to other people across the globe?

To do that, we pulled data from over 75k active DeskTime users and listed their most used productive and unproductive websites and apps in 2023.

A short note on what constitutes a productive or unproductive app: 

The productivity or unproductivity of an app depends on who’s asking. What may be useful for some is a complete time-waster for others. 

That’s why in DeskTime, managers can label apps and websites as productive, neutral, or unproductive according to how they’re perceived in their line of work.

A classic example is that Facebook and YouTube won’t be unproductive apps for a social media manager. However, for most users, apps like WhatsApp, YouTube, and Netflix are distractions, not work. Despite that, their heavy usage during work hours remains unwavering over the years – as you’ll see in this article.

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Most-used unproductive apps of 2023

Without further ado, we give you the greatest time-wasters of last year. Recognize any of your own favorite distraction apps on this list?

To give you an idea of how user behavior has changed over time, we’ve compared this year’s top 10 to the previous one.

6MS TeamsSkype
7SlackTwitter (X)
10Twitter (X)VLC Media Player

As you can see, there are no dramatic changes since last year and even the years before. Years go by, but the top 3 unproductive apps still stand the test of time.

Top 3 unproductive apps hold their ground

People will always need to unwind and socialize – maybe that’s why apps that cater to these needs are in high demand. Still, other distractions like video games (even good old Solitaire), shopping websites like Amazon, and messaging apps like Telegram, have stayed behind the line. So what makes these top 3 apps so special?


With 2.5 billion users worldwide, YouTube leads the time-waster app parade. No surprise there since YouTube is the second most visited website in the world, with 42.9% of the online global population being YouTube’s monthly active users. 

That said, don’t rush to reproach employees who use YouTube during work hours. Besides entertainment, YouTube offers a plethora of educational videos and content that can serve as a great introduction to complex subjects. 

Even more, YouTube can be used as a marketing platform for businesses. After all, 62% of businesses are already using YouTube as a channel to post video content, so maybe you should, too?


Facebook has kept its place as a top unproductive app for as long as since our first study in 2014. This ubiquitous platform has come out unscathed from various privacy scandals, the #DeleteFacebook Movement, and the subsequent Meta’s stock price plunge.

Facebook’s multifariousness may be one of the cornerstones of its success, as this app is no longer only about chatting but also about seeking information, promoting your business, buying used items, etc. People who aren’t on Facebook will face communication limitations sooner or later, and that’s why this app isn’t going anywhere – not from our lives, nor the unproductive app top.


73% of WhatsApp users in the US use the app at least once a day, and 100 billion messages are sent via WhatsApp daily. No wonder WhatsApp is an omnipresent distraction, chipping away at your attention both on your computer and smartphone.

The intensity of using WhatsApp for personal or business communication may vary from country to country, but one thing is clear – this app has proliferated so much that it’s likely you’ll find at least some of your work contacts there. However, be mindful if you notice WhatsApp at the top of your (or your team’s) unproductive apps, as there may be an issue with staying focused and avoiding distractions.

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What are work apps doing at the top of the unproductive website list?

When it comes to the rest of the top 10, the time-wasters have slightly changed their positions. But the taste of a cocktail doesn’t change depending on the sequence of ingredients you pour into a glass (don’t tell this to a professional barman). 

Still, these shifts give us an indication of users’ changing preferences over time. For example, VLC Media Player has left the unproductive app top 10 and even top 20 – and probably for good, as new technologies have come to replace it.

MS Teams is a newcomer to the top list of unproductive apps, which is interesting, as it’s primarily a business app used for work purposes. Other work-related apps like Slack and Gmail appearing in the unproductive list pose interesting questions about how organizations perceive and manage productivity tools.

The answer is that it’s no coincidence or mistake. Work-related applications have made it into the unproductive app top 10 since we started publishing them a decade ago.

There can be several reasons why this happens:

  • Sometimes an app is set as “unproductive” or “neutral” by default. This is often overlooked by DeskTime account admins or owners in companies who have access to changing this setting according to their company’s preferences. Learn how to change the productivity level of an app in this FAQ

  • Some companies may want to limit unproductive chatting that often occurs in work messaging apps. It’s easy to get carried away by posting funny GIFs and giving your 2 cents in every Slack channel (which occasionally even outnumber the employees).

  • Some managers may fear that work apps can be secretly used for slacking, e.g., imitating in-app action while actually doing something else.

  • If an organization uses a particular messaging or email app, other apps may be viewed as unproductive. For example, if the company uses Outlook for official communication, Gmail – as a personal email app – may be constituted as unproductive.

  • Some managers may want to measure how much time employees spend on their direct responsibilities or value-added work, as opposed to apps that only support it or that can be viewed as distractions. 

Most-used productive apps of 2023

It’s time to look at the other side of the coin – the top 10 productive apps used by DeskTime users last year. No great surprises there – Microsoft and Google family programs still dominate the top, with Slack being the only other app fighting for its spot under the sun. 

We can see that some apps (Slack, Skype, MS Teams) are double awardees and have made it to the top of both lists. This is a reminder that the productivity of an app is just a perspective that depends on your company’s line of work and communication style.

Interestingly, MS Remote Office has climbed to a higher spot than last year, proving that remote work is not going anywhere.

1MS OutlookMS Outlook
2MS TeamsGoogle
3MS ExcelMS Teams
4GmailMS Excel
5Google DocsGoogle Docs
6MS Remote OfficeGmail
8MS WordMS Word
10SkypeMS Remote Office

The enduring allure of digital distractions

The top time-wasting apps in 2023, largely unchanged from previous years, remind us of how hard it is to resist digital distractions. On the flip side, the top productive apps, dominated by Microsoft and Google family programs, highlight the continued significance of these tools in enhancing workplace efficiency.

A year ago, we predicted that ChatGPT would make one of these lists. Turns out, we’re not there yet. Open AI’s trailblazing tool has only made it into the top 50 – of unproductive apps, at that. Let’s see if ChatGPT makes any of the top 10 next year!

We hope our data gives you a valuable reflection on evolving work habits and preferences, offering insights that can inform your decisions and help optimize your digital workspace for the year ahead.

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