The New Workday Dead Zone When Nothing Gets Done | Kanebridge News
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The New Workday Dead Zone When Nothing Gets Done

Late afternoon, when many colleagues vanish, is why so many managers hate hybrid work

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Mon, Jul 17, 2023 9:40amGrey Clock 4 min

The 4 p.m. meeting is cancelled because half the team can’t make it. You send an email with what would have been the main discussion points, and the replies roll in through the evening and into the next morning. A consensus that could have been reached before dinner now forms the following day.

The hours that bookend the traditional close of business have become a dead zone at many companies, but employees aren’t just blowing off work to relax for the rest of the day. Workers say the 4-6 p.m. flex time they use to take a turn in the kids’ carpool, hit the gym or beat traffic often requires a third shift at night to finish the day’s tasks. They resent it when leaders assume they aren’t putting in eight or more hours of work, and they’re loath to relinquish the freedom to set their own schedules.

Despite the return of teeth-grinding commutes and overpriced lunches, lots of workers are sticking with the Covid-era habit of clocking out early and making it up later. By 4 p.m. on weekdays, golf courses are packed, according to a Stanford University study, as are many New York City restaurants.

Microsoft researchers have documented what they call a “triple peak” phenomenon in which workers’ keyboard activity spikes in the morning and afternoon, then a third time around 10 p.m. The tech giant predicts this pattern is here to stay.

In a recent, one-month sample of Microsoft Teams software usage, the share of virtual and in-person meetings scheduled between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. was down 7% from a year earlier, despite widespread office returns.

Bosses can drag employees back to their desks, but good luck keeping them there until the end of a 9-to-5 workday or beyond. The 4-6 p.m. dead zone is one reason so many executives are cranky about hybrid work. They say it’s the hardest time to reach people, and things would be easier if everybody were present and accounted for in person, even though many workers seem to be leaving offices earlier, too.

The Price of Flexibility

Fungible hours are great for those doing the fungeing. For managers and co-workers, one person’s hiatus can be another’s headache.

“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,” says Albert Fong, vice president of product marketing at Kanarys, a maker of diversity-training software. “That’s just not true.”

Flexibility can be a trap that fuels our always-on work culture, Fong adds. Instead of powering through a late-afternoon gathering and being done for the day, he often finds himself refreshing his mobile inbox all evening or opening his laptop on Sunday to catch up on messages from colleagues who work whenever.

Colette Stallbaumer, general manager of Microsoft’s Future of Work initiative, sums it up: “How do we make it so that my flexibility isn’t your challenge?”

Ana Paula Calvo, an associate partner at McKinsey & Co., says she considers how shifting her hours can affect others. She sometimes works at night or on weekends to make up for bolting to daycare many weekdays at 5:30 p.m. At the start of any new project, she does a norm-setting session to let her team know there’s no pressure for them to work off hours.

“People know that if I get back to them at 11 at night, that doesn’t mean I’m expecting them to reply right away,” she says.

It Can Wait—Or Maybe It Can’t

Accommodating employees’ personal appointments—happy-hour yoga, a teen’s tuba lesson—can be necessary to recruit and retain top talent, several business leaders tell me. They add it sure makes getting a quorum at meetings tough, though. Others, especially child-free workers, complain that their workdays have become longer and less predictable since it became widely acceptable to take breaks during normal business hours.

Maria Banach, a pharmaceutical operations director in Oregon, says she sometimes wants to call a huddle to handle a problem, only to learn that someone on the team has gone offline for a couple of hours. That might not seem very long, but her co-workers are spread across several time zones and their overlapping business hours are limited. Issues can linger overnight when one or two people step away early, Banach says, and every day is precious. The drugs her company manufactures expire 17 days after production.

“Scheduling meetings has become difficult, and I’ve learned: Do it in the morning and never on Friday,” she says.

Some executives have accepted, even embraced, the reality that little gets done from 4-6 p.m. Anthony Stephan, chief learning officer of Deloitte U.S., says recorded tutorials are now a centrepiece of the firm’s professional-development program. Getting employees together for an end-of-the-day training session is seldom an option any more, he says. They hone new skills when they feel like it.

Stephan, a father of five, holds himself to a hard stop at 5 p.m. He initially worried that others would keep hustling after he called it a day, but he now realises others are winding down early or right on time. For emergencies, he tells his team to put #criticalnow in an email subject line. Most things can wait until after his 5:15 a.m. workout the next morning, he figures.

At Komet U.S.A., a South Carolina-based maker of dental equipment, meetings after 4 p.m. or on Friday afternoon are against company policy, except in special circumstances. Chief Executive Mercedes Aycinena, promoted to the top job last year, introduced those calendar blocks last fall after polling the staff.

Aycinena, who has about 100 employees, usually leaves the office at 5 p.m. to spend time with her three children and then resumes work later as needed. She lets subordinates shift their hours, too, and credits flexibility with helping reduce turnover from 50% to 15% over the past year.

“I hate meetings after 4,” she says. “My brain is done.”



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AACCI’s Strategic Vision for Enhancing Australia-Arab Trade Relations
AACCI’s Strategic Vision for Enhancing Australia-Arab Trade Relations

The Australian Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) is fostering robust trade relations between Australia and Arab countries.

Mon, May 20, 2024 5 min

In an era where global trade and international relationships are more crucial than ever, the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) serves as a bridge, for cooperation and growth between Australia and the Arab nations. Led by its Chairman, Mr. Mohamed Hage, the AACCI has taken on projects aimed at strengthening relationships and fostering development across borders.

This exclusive interview explores the initiatives implemented by the AACCI to expand its presence and influence in the region including the significant establishment of a new operational hub in Dubai. We also delve into how the Chamber embraces education through training and research, its participation in major international exhibitions, and its active support for both large corporations and small businesses.

Looking towards tomorrow, Mr. Mohamed shares his vision for broadening AACCI’s reach emphasizing the importance of the on-ground operations and cultural understanding in building business connections.

-Could you elaborate on the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry, including its objectives and main areas of focus?

The Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) plays a fundamental role, in promoting business partnerships and trade between Australia and the 22 Arab countries. As a member of the Union of Arab Chambers affiliated with the Arab League, AACCI focuses on strengthening trade and investment ties, across these countries.

To nurture these connections effectively AACCI has outlined four objectives: facilitating trade and investment activities, certifying documents, educating stakeholders, and offering marketing assistance.

Our initiatives are designed not only to empower trade and investment endeavors but to also ensure engagement with specific sectors that drive these activities. With an understanding of the characteristics, strengths and preferences of each country, AACCI prides itself on its specialized knowledge customized to suit the distinct business environments of these nations.

– As the AACCI approaches its 50th anniversary, what have been some of the key milestones and achievements?

I believe one of AACCI’s accomplishments is the opportunities it has opened up for numerous Australian companies to access markets, in the region. Moreover, the strong bilateral trade relationship that has developed between Australia and the 22 Arab nations over the five decades has led to trade transactions amounting to billions of dollars.

This extensive trade covers industries such as food and beverages, luxury hotels and many more services. Each successive generation, within AACCI has built upon the foundation laid by its predecessors enriching their knowledge base and expanding their range of services.

– How does the AACCI leverage its diverse leadership team to enhance trade and investment opportunities between Australia and the Arab region?

Since taking on the role of chairman, my main focus has been on expanding our presence in the region. This led to the idea of opening an office in Dubai, which symbolizes our dedication to deepening our engagement in that area. We have successfully secured the license to open our first office in Dubai after 50 years, which will serve as a gateway to the GCC and North Africa.

I strongly believe that building two-way trade and investment ties requires more than a degree of business connectivity; it demands having local representatives present in each region. With trends emphasizing strategies the value of face-to-face engagements cannot be overstated.

Setting up offices in the region is essential for the Chamber to truly serve as a link and support system for business activities. Ultimately this expansion will bring benefits to our members and partners by providing them with access, to dynamic markets and diverse prospects.

– Can you discuss the significance of AACCI’s role in cultural and business exchanges between the two regions?

The importance of understanding cultures in our operations cannot be overstated. To address this, we have included a training platform within the Chamber to strengthen our cultural awareness initiatives. This new program offers our members access to modules on our website focusing on global business practices.

Furthermore, we have set up a Center of Excellence specifically dedicated to researching areas like food security and cultural awareness. These research endeavors are essential for promoting knowledge between the two regions.

By combining the resources of the Center of Excellence, our training resources, and the forthcoming local office in Dubai, we’re providing cultural awareness not only in the region but also in Australia. This approach ensures that our members are well equipped and knowledgeable boosting their effectiveness and involvement, in markets.

– What is the objective of your on-ground presence at conferences and events?

Participating in conferences and on ground events is very important for increasing awareness in industries like construction where knowledge of opportunities in the Arab world may not be widespread. When we see projects such as NEOM or notice the construction boom happening in the region it becomes important for organizations like the Chamber of Commerce to highlight these prospects. By taking part in large scale expos such as the Sydney Build Expo we position ourselves at the forefront of these advancements.

Our presence at these events enables interaction giving entrepreneurs a chance to visit our booth engage in discussions and learn more about the region in an approachable and personalized manner. This plays a role in simplifying the process and making opportunities concrete.

– With such a diverse membership base, how does AACCI tailor its services to meet the needs of both large corporations and small startups?

When it comes to discussing business it’s important to grasp how influence and vision come into play. Businesses looking to expand are often motivated by a desire to achieve something whether they are big companies or small enterprises. Small businesses typically aim to raise their brands profile while larger corporations seek recognition and market dominance.

Standing out in this area can be tough mainly because the key driving force is the passion to showcase the brand and products on a platform. This determination serves as a motivator for entrepreneurs.

At the Chamber we make a point of recognizing the needs of both big and small players by understanding each members individual situation. We ensure that every member is well informed about the opportunities and risks that come with expanding. For small businesses, this means being aware of the financial demands, while large businesses are advised on the necessity of both financial and emotional resilience.

– How does AACCI plan to expand or evolve its services in the coming years to further support its members?

The importance of having resources on the ground cannot be emphasized enough. Having local staff is key to establishing connections with the communities we serve. Without a presence in the area staying updated on events and activities becomes quite challenging.

This is why, as I’ve mentioned before, we have established an office in Dubai, staffed with personnel dedicated to supporting our members. This local office will help us effectively bridge the gap between Australia and the Arab world. And our members will benefit from insights and assistance from someone who truly knows the landscape.

In Australia we have equipped offices throughout the country staffed by individuals who play a significant role in our operations. This strong domestic network complements our efforts ensuring that we provide support to our members both locally and globally. This strategic approach is crucial, for nurturing business relationships and fostering continental understanding.

 

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