Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, Warns About the Danger of Emails

Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, warned that the long workdays that now often extend deep into the night could negatively affect employee well-being.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella cited Microsoft research showing that about a third of white-collar workers have a “third peak” of productivity late in the evening, based on keyboard activity. This third peak shows how remote work has blurred the line between work and home life, which was already blurred before and after lunch. Speaking at the Wharton Future of Work Conference on Thursday, Nadella said managers need to make clear their expectations so workers are not under pressure to respond to emails late at night.   

We tend to think about productivity in terms of collaboration and output metrics, but well-being is a critical component of productivity, he said. “We all know how stressful work can make us,” he said. In order to take care of people’s welfare, we need to learn soft skills, good old-fashioned management practices. That expectation can be set, that our employees can get an email from the CEO on the weekend and not feel obliged to respond.”

Two out of three employees who consider leaving their jobs say their employers have not followed through on pandemic promises to focus on employee mental health, according to a Harris Poll commissioned by online therapy provider Talkspace.

According to Microsoft research, 30% of employees experience peaks in the morning, afternoon, and, to a lesser extent, at around 10 p.m. Microsoft has found workdays have grown by 46 minutes, or 13%, since the pandemic began, with after-hours work growing even faster, increasing by 28%. The data shows how workers have increasingly adopted more asynchronous schedules that don’t always align with those of their distant colleagues or managers. 

About 50,000 Microsoft employees joined during the pandemic, Nadella said. People, particularly those in the technology sector, are increasingly demanding flexibility in where and when they work.  

 Nadella dodged the question, saying he learns something new every day.


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