Researchers from Microsoft studying workplace trends have revealed an interesting trend. A trend that will hit close to home for anyone accustomed to logging in after hours. An analysis of keystrokes from a sample of Microsoft employees showed that there was a third peak of work activity starting around 9:00 o’clock in the evening. Their research suggests that the traditional 9-to-5 workday is fading, and more workers may be redesigning their day to meet the demands of work and life.
A visualization of the data reveals that customary productivity peaks before and after lunch, with peak activity seeming to occur before lunch. However, a new productivity peak appears to emerged in the evening. The researchers argue that the pandemic has contributed to this growing phenomenon – a phenomenon researchers at Microsoft have begun referring to as a “triple peak day.”
“Having your kids at home, having no breaks to eat or exercise, we see that one of the ways to cope is to take a break, eat dinner, and then spend time in the evening actually getting things done,” says Mary Czerwinski, research manager, human understanding and empathy, at Microsoft Research.
This trend, like many that have accelerated with the pandemic, may not be new for some reading this article. However, as the prevalence of this work style increases, it raises some questions and challenges for managers and employees. For example, according to the Microsoft Work Trend Index, the average Microsoft Teams user now sends 42% more chats per person after hours.
“This [third] peak is different from the other two peaks because it raises the question, ‘Is this about flexibility, or is it about work encroaching on someone’s personal hours?” asks Shamsi Iqbal, principal researcher on productivity and intelligence at Microsoft Research and Microsoft Viva Insights.
In this new world of work, everyone’s expectation of when (or where) people work must be reexamined. “Workers are not islands,” Iqbal says. “Right now, you cannot assume that everyone on your team is going to be available during the 9-to-5 timeframe, or that others will want to collaborate when you’re working outside regular business hours.”
This data suggests what many know all too well. Traditional office hours, particularly for knowledge workers, are fading as technology and work styles shift to meet the new realities of work.
“Every single person on a team has a different context within which they’re trying to be productive,” Czerwinski says. “You have to give everyone space to do it on their terms. Some of them might have babies, some of them have teenagers, some of them might not have kids, but they work best at night. Some are in another time zone and are asynchronous. The key is, they can all be productive, but they have to do it in a way and at a time that’s personalized. It’s all over the place in terms of how you can be your original self at work and really contribute.”