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Managers Mark 4 P.M. to 6 P.M. as ‘Dead Zone’ – Staff Log Off Sooner and Complete Tasks Later

Source: John M Lund Photography Inc/Getty Images

The pandemic ushered in a new normal in work trends around the world. During the lockdown, most workers had to get used to working in a pair of casual clothes or pajama bottoms from their makeshift home office. Just as several organizations are returning to the nine-to-five routine, the world of work is creating a new trend out of the chaos of the recent disruptions. 

Managers of white-collar employees are starting to observe a trend among nine-to-five workers. Before the pandemic, such workers were largely noticed to exhibit two performance peaks in a typical workday. The first peak oscillates around 11 am, while the second often lingers around 3 pm. Now, you may wonder how in the world employers get to determine their employees’ productivity. Well, the data was determined using a method designed by productivity researchers at Microsoft. They simply installed software on the work PCs of sample employees that notes their keyboard activities; of course, not with informational details, just the active periods. 

The 11 am peak is usually a product of the morning freshness and is often fueled by some cup(s) of coffee, while the 3 pm peak manifests when the strength from the lunch break and maybe a power nap kicks in. Interestingly, a third peak is starting to manifest recurrently in 30% of the Microsoft study group, and researchers believe it is a product of a 4 pm to 6 pm Dead Zone. Managers noticed that prior to the third peak, which usually manifests around 10 pm, workers in this category would often log off between 4 pm and 6 pm. 

In the Dead Zone, Microsoft workers were observed to attend to a number of things, mostly personal. For example, some of these workers use that time to attend to their kids, some leave the office early to beat traffic, and others catch up on some social experience—like having a quick snack with friends at a local diner.

During the 10 pm work peak, some of these triple-peak workers would log a couple of hours in before going to bed. This would sometimes involve completing a task they started earlier in the day, responding to pending prompts on shared documents, or starting an entirely fresh task as a mojo builder for the next day’s work. 

Any observer would naturally think that the triple-peaker gets more done, but researchers have established that this emerging work schedule has its ups and accompanying downs. For example, a worker who logs off in the dead zone might cause collaborative work to stop if they need to give some authorization before the task can progress. However, the Microsoft Future of Work Initiative also sees the triple-peak schedule as an avenue for work flexibility. Consequently, workers are able to maintain a healthy work-life balance irrespective of varying time zones or family crises. 


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