The Triple Peak Workday

Triple Peak Workday

The Triple Peak Workday.

An ongoing series where I share a “Business Playlist” of articles that made me think in the hope that you find them valuable also.

This week: “The Triple Peak Workday” – working from home has changed how, and when, we work. A Microsoft study shows the average workday has expanded by 1 hour, and 30% of people resume work after dinner with a 3rd productivity spike between 8 pm and 11 pm.   

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This Is What Happens When There Are Too Many Meetings (Why a 9-to-10 is the new 9-to-5)

This article by Derek Thompson, published in The Atlantic looks at a study Microsoft conducted on their workforce tracking “keyboard events” to see when people were working. Quotes from the article are in italics.

Microsoft published a study that offers an eerie reflection of my working life. Traditionally, the researchers said, white-collar workers—or “knowledge workers,” in the modern parlance—have had two productivity peaks in their workday: just before lunch and just after lunch. But since the pandemic, a third and smaller bump of work has emerged in the late evening. Microsoft’s researchers refer to this phenomenon as the ‘triple peak day’.”

“For the new study, workers allowed Microsoft to track their ‘keyboard events’ – a funny euphemism for sending emails or engaging with productivity applications on a work computer. While most people didn’t show a third mountain of work in the evening, 30 percent did. They were working almost as much at 10 p.m. as they were at 8 a.m.”

“Several underlying phenomena are pushing up this third mountain of work. One is the flexibility of at-home work. For example, parents of young kids might interrupt their workday or cut it off early for school pickup, dinnertime, bedtime, and other child care. This leaves a rump of work that they finish up later. Other workers are night owls who get their second wind – or even their primary gust of creativity – just before bed.”

“Microsoft has also found that the pandemic has simply led to more overall work. According to company research, the average workday has expanded by 13 percent – about an hour – since March 2020, and average after-hours work has increased by twice as much.

“Home and work used to have stronger geographical and technological boundaries: We left our house, drove to an office or factory, and then returned home, leaving the tools of work behind. Today, most knowledge work is basically just communication, which makes it indistinguishable from a lot of leisure. Chat with a colleague, or a friend; call a client, or a sibling: The biggest difference between these activities is the person on the other end of the horn. As work becomes more like life, it also becomes more of life.”

“Something else is pushing work into our evenings: White-collar work has become a bonanza of meetings. In the first months of the pandemic, Microsoft saw online meetings soar as offices shut down. By the end of 2020, the number of meetings had doubled. In 2021, it just kept growing.”

People have 250 percent more meetings every day than they did before the pandemic.

“That means everything else – like coding and email and writing – is being pushed later. Workday creep and meeting creep aren’t two separate trends; they’re the same trend.”

“At a deep level, meeting inflation is about the outdated expectation that all office work ought to be synchronous, or happening at the same time for everyone. Meetings require synchronicity: Everybody be present now. But most white-collar labor can be at least somewhat asynchronous. We send emails and chats that don’t require an immediate response. We edit and share documents without the expectation that our colleagues will attend to our work in a matter of milliseconds. Good remote managers should be time ninjas, continually deciding what work must be synchronous (meetings) and what work can be asynchronous (emails or shared docs).

One obvious solution is fewer meetings – or at least fewer days for meetings.”

“We need a deeper theory of work and time. When we say ‘That meeting should have been an email,’ we’re not just saying ‘My boss wouldn’t stop talking.’ We’re also saying ‘I think the information from that synchronous event would have been more productively shared as an asynchronous communication, so that an hour of necessary work wasn’t shifted later into the workday.’ Our late-night mini workdays are not just an expression of benign flexibility. They’re also the consequence of inflexible managers filling the day with so many meetings that we have to add a ‘worknight’ to do our job.”

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This article certainly made me think! For more information related to this topic, see my articles:

Do I Need to Attend That Meeting?

Asynchronous Daily Huddles

Leadership Productivity – The Magic 2 Hours

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Until next time…
Stephen

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