When Microsoft noticed that its Teams chats were pretty active after business hours, they wanted to know what was happening.
In the company’s report from April 2020, they discovered that people were working more frequently in the morning and evening hours, but also on the weekends. Teams' chats outside of the typical workday, from 8-9 a.m. and 6-8 p.m have increased more than any other time during the day – between 15% and 23%.
Weekend work is spiking as well – Teams' chats on Saturday and Sunday have increased over 200%.
This was at odds with what traditionally has been the structure of knowledge workers who, according to Microsoft, 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, a third peak emerged for some in the hours before bedtime and the company is calling this a “triple peak day".
Is this a good thing?
"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 an article.
As with any change in work habits, there are positives and negatives. Some people who work at home have found that it’s nice to have breakfast with their children and greet them when they get home, so working after they go to bed isn’t a problem, it’s actually a better work/life balance.
Others can't seem to shut work out and really never go off the clock and this can lead to burnout. Taking breaks is essential to well-being. And of course, Microsoft studied that as well. This graphic shows how our brains look when we take a break and when we don’t.
So maybe the answer is to educate employees that taking a break, at whatever time works for them, is the key to well-being.
Going back to the traditional 9-5 just doesn't seem to be a reality, or even preferred by many studies which have shown that people would look for a new job if they are going to have to work, in an office full-time, under the old standard 9-5.