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Employers are Learning to Cope with Late Afternoon Dead Zone

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Jul 18, 2023

Increasingly, little gets done in the workplace between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., The Wall Street Journal reported, and companies are adapting to that reality.

That’s not because people are clocking out early; they make up the time later in the day or evening, using the two-hour window to go to the gym or pick up or drop off the children, then go back to work later in the evening—and even into the morning.

“Working from Home ... has powered a huge boom in golfing,” a March 2023 Stanford University study found.

Welcome to a new wrinkle in the world of post-pandemic working. A so-called “triple peak” phenomenon has been identified, in which workers’ keyboard activity spikes in the morning and afternoon, then a third time around 10 p.m., according to research by Microsoft.

This trend is making executives “cranky” about hybrid work, the Journal reported, as they find those two hours to be the hardest period in which to reach people.

“A lot of companies have taken a loose approach under the belief that we’re all adults, so everyone will be self-disciplined and stay motivated at whatever time they’re working,” said Albert Fong, vice president of product marketing at Kanarys, a diversity-training software maker. “That’s just not true.”

Accommodating employees’ personal appointments can be necessary to recruit and retain top talent, several business leaders told the Journal. It also makes it difficult to gather everyone for meetings.

Some firms have acknowledged the reality of little getting done in those two hours. Anthony Stephan, chief learning officer of Deloitte U.S., told the Journal that recorded tutorials are now a centerpiece of the firm’s professional-development program, as getting employees together for an end-of-the-day training session is seldom an option anymore.

Chief Executive Mercedes Aycinena of Komet U.S.A, a dental equipment maker, banned meetings after 4 p.m. or on Friday afternoons, except in special circumstances, after polling the staff. She usually leaves the office at 5 p.m. to spend time with her three children, resuming work later as needed. She lets subordinates shift their hours, too, and credits flexibility with helping reduce turnover at her 100-employee company from 50 percent to 15 percent over the past year. 

“I hate meetings after 4,” she told the Journal. “My brain is done.”