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The 'Workday Dead Zone' Tanks Productivity During These Hours — Are You Guilty? Leaders Pushing for the Return to Office Think So. Research from Microsoft also supports what workers are experiencing.

By Amanda Breen

Key Takeaways

  • A timeframe near the end of the workday is earning a "dead zone" reputation.
  • Workers typically use the time to take care of personal tasks, then finish job-related to-dos later.
  • Some executives think return-to-office mandates are the solution — but that's not necessarily true.
entrepreneur daily

A shift in workplace policies during the pandemic meant increased flexibility for many U.S. workers in remote roles, and some of them aren't willing to give that up.

The 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. window that traditionally marks the end of the workday has become a "dead zone" for workers who use those hours to fulfill personal obligations, then typically must work a "third shift" later in the evening to finish up their work tasks, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Related: The Damaging Results of the Mandated Return to Office Are Worse Than We Thought

Most people who worked from home during the pandemic hoped to continue doing so (86%); 63% of remote workers cited "flexible hours" as one of the benefits they've experienced, and 52% appreciated the "ability to do small household tasks while also working," according to data from market research firm YouGov.

Research at Microsoft backs the "dead zone" phenomenon too: Employees' keyboard activity soars in the morning and afternoon, then for a third time around 10 p.m. Additionally, despite sweeping office returns, the number of virtual and in-person meetings scheduled between 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. decreased 7% year over year, per WSJ.

But some executives lament the logistical challenges and lack of productivity that flexibility can bring.

"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 outlet. "That's just not true."

Related: The Forced Return to Office Is the Definition of Insanity. Here's Why.

Many executives in support of mandated office returns point to improved productivity or idea generation, but those claims aren't backed by evidence, CNBC reported.

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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