The working day is undergoing some significant changes. Microsoft, which has 180,000 employees in 100 countries, has found that people who work from home have three peak periods in a day that do not correspond to the usual workday of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in pre-pandemic times.
Microsoft has analyzed work patterns among its employees who work from home and what they experience with more flexible hours. One indicator of change is that as the pandemic began, meetings on Microsoft Teams were more likely to take place after 5 p.m., usually between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., according to Microsoft, which recently released its second annual Work Trend Index report.
The company’s data suggests 9-to-5 is over and meetings outside the previous norms are now common, causing a third spike in the night for some. Microsoft researchers call it the “triple peak day.”
“Traditionally, knowledge workers had two productivity peaks in their workday: before lunch and after lunch. But when the pandemic sent so many people into work-from-home mode, some experienced a third spike in the hours before bedtime,” notes Microsoft. in a blog post.
The finding probably won’t come as a surprise to parents who work and manage children after picking them up from school in the afternoon.
The average Teams user now sends 42 percent more chats per person outside office hours, according to Work Trend Index findings.
Microsoft found that 30 percent of its employees worked more at night based on “keyboard events.” That slight increase in keyboard activity was much lower than the traditional work peaks around 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., but there is a peak around 10 p.m.
The company does not know why these employees work more at night. This can be due to tasks in childcare, for example, but also because people in different time zones work together.
Microsoft is betting that hybrid work will implement its customers in the coming years, and so it is reshaping its software products to meet this reality, from Teams to Office and Windows. Microsoft itself reopened its campuses on February 28. Apple and Google are also reducing office hours, but allowing employees to work from home two to three days a week.
Microsoft fears that if people work around the clock, they could burn out. “What are the implications for well-being if every free hour is potentially ‘on the clock’?” said Microsoft.
This third peak differs from the other two because it raises the question of whether it’s flexibility or work that affects one’s personal hours, said Shamsi Iqbal, lead researcher in productivity and intelligence at Microsoft Research and Microsoft Viva Insights.
Customers can avoid meetings at unconventional hours by using asynchronous communication, such as the Teams status update channel, instead of a video conference. Microsoft also plans to bring scheduling options from Outlook to Teams, which will allow messages sent outside of normal working hours to arrive in the inbox when working hours resume.
“People often send emails at odd hours because they don’t want to get rid of the thought and they want it to be recorded, but it doesn’t necessarily have to reach the recipient right away,” Iqbal said.
“Delaying the delivery of that email means we can get the best of both worlds: capturing the thought so it isn’t lost and making sure the recipient gets it at a time that’s more convenient for them.”