Faced with a general wave of digital exhaustion among employees, Microsoft researchers investigated its underlying causes and offered tips for establishing healthier workplace norms and optimizing employee performance, according to the Harvard Business Review.
Digital exhaustion: Researchers on Microsoft’s people analytics team found that overflowing inboxes and meeting overload have overwhelmed employees, inhibiting productivity. A year into the pandemic, the amount of time people spent using Microsoft Teams has doubled, and the average number of after-hours chats sent by employees has increased by 42%. By examining employees’ activity and rest patterns and analyzing their survey responses, researchers sought to help managers create a more balanced hybrid work environment.
Virtual stressors: Virtual stressors include over-collaboration, uninterrupted concentration and skimping on vacation. Individuals who spent more time completing collaborative tasks, such as writing emails, attending meetings and sending chats, were less content than those who attended fewer meetings, wrote fewer emails in general and composed fewer emails after working hours.
Prioritization, focus, boundaries and tech: The study showed that task prioritization, streamlining meetings, setting firm labor boundaries and incorporating time away are essential to establishing work-life harmony and replenishing productivity. Prioritization creates stability in the face of chaos, since not everything can be done simultaneously. To stave off exhaustion and ensure a sustainable workload, employees are at their best when they receive prioritization support from their managers. Reevaluating meetings by building in breaks, avoiding major meetings on Mondays and Fridays and keeping meetings short and sweet is the way to go. Encouraging employees to carve out time for uninterrupted work can also mean less work spilling into after hours, while limiting emails to employees after work hours reduces the pressure to check emails when it’s time to step away for the day.
Vacations and staycations: Unplugging through vacations, staycations and mental health days is also key to building team well-being. Microsoft’s sick leave structure now includes mental health days and global well-being days. Managers are encouraged to ensure that employees feel that they have adequate coverage and leeway to take time off by incorporating a buddy system that allows co-workers to oversee each other’s work during their vacation window and building in consensus days for collectively negotiating and managing work responsibilities during time away.