At the corporate headquarters in Redmond Washington, Microsoft recently discovered interesting new trends about its employees work from home habits. For example, 52% of the organization’s instant messages were sent between 6pm and midnight. Are developers a nocturnal species?

More than 60% of business leaders described themselves as “thriving” in the context of remote work. In comparison, 37% of rank-and-file employees reported the same sentiment. “…the data is clear: Our people are struggling. And we need to find new ways to help them,” says CVP of Microsoft 365, Jared Spataro.

Researchers also discovered that colleagues set up more meetings than in the office setting (virtual, of course). And to foster a sense of community and social occasions, employees had created virtual pajama days and Meet My Pet days. Online social gatherings increased by 10%.

Returning to the office

Many organizations are rethinking office arrangements and employees wonder about what the return will look like. According to Microsoft “Physical office space must be compelling enough to entice workers to commute in, and include a mix of collaboration and focus areas,”.

“Meeting rooms and team culture will need to evolve to ensure all voices are heard,” says the company.

Microsoft’s solutions, hybrid workplace

Microsoft’s study also found that employees’ work days have become more protracted. The average individual provided four more hours of productivity than usual. Researchers propose that domestic obligations may explain the seemingly extended workdays.

“As we look to create a better future of work, addressing digital exhaustion must be a priority for leaders everywhere. It won’t be easy, but consider how to reduce employee workloads, embrace a balance of synchronous and asynchronous collaboration, and create a culture where breaks are encouraged and respected.”

One approach that organizations from Citigroup to Zoom to Microsoft are taking: Meeting-free Fridays. The goal is to mitigate ‘Zoom fatigue’ by suggesting that employees avoid scheduling meetings on one specific day of the week. Is it working? Only time will tell.

Ideas for uplifting employees

More than one company implemented ‘fake commutes’. These virtual commutes are believed to increase impromptu conversations. Employees can share a sense of camaraderie, brainstorm ideas and, of course, get the gossip.

Organizations are going out of their way to provide employees with the equipment required to get the job done. They’re trying to lead with empathy.

employee working from home

As the pandemic continues and global health organizations advocate for continued remote work, how can organizations keep employees content? Some organizations are focused on the idea of ‘flexible’.

In acknowledging that every employee is an individual, with different tastes, preferences and working styles, organizations are developing policies that expand flexibility options. A given organization retains a wide array of roles, each with unique demands designed to fulfil specific business needs. If the developers prefer to live the nocturnal life, IMing from 6pm until midnight, why not?

​For more on Microsoft and work from home, visit ZDNet.