Microsoft CEO warns of damage to morale caused by after-hours emails

Man annoyed at laptop
(Image credit: Marjan Apostolovic / Shutterstock)

Late night emails could be detrimental to both employee morale and well-being according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

During a recent talk at the Wharton Future of Work Conference, Nadella explained that around a third of office employees have a “third peak” of productivity late in the evening based on research conducted by the company into how working from home impacts collaboration. Microsoft decided to look further into the matter in an effort to improve Microsoft Teams.

While productivity typically spikes before and after lunch, this third peak is the result of employees working remotely. Although they spent less time commuting during the pandemic, the hours that most employees worked increased as did their availability.

Nadella explained that managers need to set clear expectations  when it comes to after-hour emails to avoid seeing their employees succumb to the effects of stress, saying:

“We think about productivity through collaboration and output metrics, but well-being is one of the most important pieces of productivity. We know what stress does to workers. We need to learn the soft skills, good old-fashioned management practices, so people have their well being taken care of. I can set that expectation, that our people can get an email from the CEO on the weekend and not feel that they have to respond.”

An expanding workday

Based on a Microsoft study of its own employees, close to 30 percent of the software giant’s workers experienced “peaks” of work in the morning, afternoon and to a somewhat lesser extent, at around 10pm.

Since the pandemic started, the company has observed that the average workday has expanded by 46 minutes or thirteen percent. However, time spent on after-hours work has increased even more quickly at 28 percent.

According to Nadella, Microsoft brought on around 50k employees during the pandemic. However, these employees are increasingly demanding more flexibility regarding where and when they work which explains why organizations are rushing to implement their own hybrid work policies.

While Nadella doesn’t want employees answering emails during the weekend, when asked if he waits to send them on Monday, he told the audience at the Wharton Future of Work Conference that he is “learning every day”. 

As employees begin returning to the office en masse, their workdays will likely remain a bit longer as it can be quite difficult to let go of the habits and behaviors they picked up while working from home over the course of the last two years.

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.