(Photo: Efes, Wikimedia Commons)Microsoft has been doing research throughout the pandemic with some of its remote employees to get a grasp on the effects of working from home. The goal is to understand how being at home affects their productivity. In its latest blog post, the company outlines some of its recent findings about employee work habits. By tracking some of its employees’ work habits (with their cooperation, of course) it’s come to understand there’s no such thing as the traditional 9-5 workday any more. In addition, it’s discovered when its employees are particularly productive, and how often.
The company’s post is titled The Rise of the Triple Peak Day, and it describes a new phenomenon. It says when employees were in the office, it found “knowledge workers” usually had two periods of peak productivity: before lunch and after lunch. However, with everyone working from home there’s now a third period: late at night, right before bedtime. The company notes it saw hints of this in the early pandemic, when chatting over Microsoft Teams increased the most from 6PM to 8PM. Microsoft says this reinforces the notion that the phrase “work hours” is now an amorphous concept. People decide to tend to their kids or their personal needs during work hours, then make up for it later. That’s one huge benefit of working from home, obviously. However, it also raises a potentially troubling concern, which is whether work hours are bleeding into peoples’ free time.
Microsoft discovered this phenomena by tracking employees’ keyboard usage. In doing so it found 30 percent of them had a “third peak” at night, but noted it was less intense than the two previous peaks earlier in the day. It concludes this is just the new normal; that work hours are flexible now, and not confined to the antiquated 9-5 model. The company says it’s not sure if this activity represents someone being a workaholic or just being flexible with their time. It does note that the boundaries between “office hours” and a person’s free time have become blurred. As evidence of this, it points out that Microsoft Teams users send 42 percent more chats per person after the work day is over.
Most people see this trend as a good thing, as people can be in charge of their own schedules. That said, Microsoft points out a big downside. It notes, “others mourn the loss of a defined 9-to-5 workday and the feeling of freedom they once had after leaving the office for the evening.” This lead one of the researches to smartly ponder, “The third peak should be an available option for people who need it, but the challenge moving forward is, ‘How can we make sure people are not working 24/7?’ ”