Report finds new “dead zone" period when little work happens, employees focus on other life matters

Stressed business people at work. (Photo by Liaison)

A new Wall Street Journal report has revealed a new "dead zone" period when little work happens and employees focus on other life matters.

In a recent, one-month data sample of Microsoft Teams software usage, the company chronicled work pattern shifts and found that meetings schedule between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. fell by 7% compared to the year prior.

" The 4-6 p.m. dead zone is one reason so many executives are cranky about hybrid work. They say it’s the hardest time to reach people, and things would be easier if everybody were present and accounted for in person, even though many workers seem to be leaving offices earlier, too," the WSJ wrote in their report published Sunday.  

The study found that more flexible work rules and hybrid schedules shifted employee duties to family activities, gym workouts or leaving the office early to beat traffic.

"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," Albert Fong, vice president of product marketing at Kanarys, a maker of diversity-training software, told the news outlet. "That’s just not true."

In another study, published by Stanford University earlier this year, researchers found working from home powered a huge increase in golfing during the work week. They found golfers played more golf on weekdays – 143% more on Wednesday in 2022 vs. 2019, and golfers played more in the mid-afternoon, for example 278% more on Wednesday at 4 p.m in 2022 vs. 2019.

This news comes despite widespread office returns following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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A Labor Department report released in March found about 21 million more workers on-site full time in 2022 compared to the year before. 

The paper noted that several large companies are pushing their employees to show up in-person at the office more often. Those include the Walt Disney Co., which requires employees to come into work for four days a week, Starbucks Corp., and Facebook parent company Meta Platforms Inc. 

"Our hypothesis is that it is still easier to build trust in person and that those relationships help us work more effectively," Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a letter to employees in March. 

While these studies suggest that people may be leaving the office earlier, the WSJ also noted that the 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.  timeframe was often made up later – on nights or weekends.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.