The New Workday Dead Zone When Nothing Gets Done
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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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New York Watch Auctions Record Uptick in Sales in the Face of Market Slowdown
By LAURIE KAHLE
Mon, Jun 24, 2024 4 min

Luxury watch collectors showed ongoing strong demand for Patek Philippe, growing interest in modern watches and a preference for larger case sizes and leather straps at the June watch sales in New York, according to an analysis of the major auctions.

Independent and neo-vintage categories, meanwhile, experienced declines in total sales and average prices, said the report from  EveryWatch, a global online platform for watch information. Overall, the New York auctions achieved total sales of US$52.27 million, a 9.87% increase from the previous year, on the sale of 470 lots, reflecting a 37% increase in volume. Unsold rates ticked down a few points to 5.31%, according to the platform’s analysis.

EveryWatch gathered data from official auction results for sales held in New York from June 5 to 10 at Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s. Limited to watch sales exclusively, each auction’s data was reviewed and compiled for several categories, including total lots, sales and sold rates, highest prices achieved, performance against estimates, sales trends in case materials and sizes as well as dial colors, and more. The resulting analysis provides a detailed overview of market trends and performance.

The Charles Frodsham Pocket watch sold at Phillips for $433,400.

“We still see a strong thirst for rare, interesting, and exceptional watches, modern and vintage alike, despite a little slow down in the market overall,” says Paul Altieri, founder and CEO of the California-based pre-owned online watch dealer BobsWatches.com, in an email. “The results show that there is still a lot of money floating around out there in the economy looking for quality assets.”

Patek Philippe came out on top with more than US$17.68 million on the sale of 122 lots. It also claimed the top lot: Sylvester Stallone’s Patek Philippe GrandMaster Chime 6300G-010, still in the sealed factory packaging, which sold at Sotheby’s for US$5.4 million, much to the dismay of the brand’s president, Thierry Stern . The London-based industry news website WatchPro estimates the flip made the actor as much as US$2 million in just a few years.

At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire
Richard Mille

“As we have seen before and again in the recent Sotheby’s sale, provenance can really drive prices higher than market value with regards to the Sylvester Stallone Panerai watches and his standard Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1a offered,” Altieri says.

Patek Philippe claimed half of the top 10 lots, while Rolex and Richard Mille claimed two each, and Philippe Dufour claimed the No. 3 slot with a 1999 Duality, which sold at Phillips for about US$2.1 million.

“In-line with EveryWatch’s observation of the market’s strong preference for strap watches, the top lot of our auction was a Philippe Dufour Duality,” says Paul Boutros, Phillips’ deputy chairman and head of watches, Americas, in an email. “The only known example with two dials and hand sets, and presented on a leather strap, it achieved a result of over US$2 million—well above its high estimate of US$1.6 million.”

In all, four watches surpassed the US$1 million mark, down from seven in 2023. At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire, the most expensive watch sold at Christie’s in New York. That sale also saw a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM52-01 CA-FQ Tourbillon Skull Model go for US$1.26 million to an online buyer.

Rolex expert Altieri was surprised one of the brand’s timepieces did not crack the US$1 million threshold but notes that a rare Rolex Daytona 6239 in yellow gold with a “Paul Newman John Player Special” dial came close at US$952,500 in the Phillips sale.

The Crown did rank second in terms of brand clout, achieving sales of US$8.95 million with 110 lots. However, both Patek Philippe and Rolex experienced a sales decline by 8.55% and 2.46%, respectively. The independent brand Richard Mille, with US$6.71 million in sales, marked a 912% increase from the previous year with 15 lots, up from 5 lots in 2023.

The results underscored recent reports of prices falling on the secondary market for specific coveted models from Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. The summary points out that five top models produced high sales but with a fall in average prices.

The Rolex Daytona topped the list with 42 appearances, averaging US$132,053, a 41% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, with two of the top five watches, made 26 appearances with an average price of US$111,198, a 26% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendar followed with 23 appearances and a US$231,877 average price, signifying a fall of 43%, and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak had 22 appearances and an average price of US$105,673, a 10% decrease. The Rolex Day Date is the only watch in the top five that tracks an increase in average price, which at US$72,459 clocked a 92% increase over last year.

In terms of categories, modern watches (2005 and newer) led the market with US$30 million in total sales from 226 lots, representing a 53.54% increase in sales and a 3.78% increase in average sales price over 2023. Vintage watches (pre-1985) logged a modest 6.22% increase in total sales and an 89.89% increase in total lots to 169.

However, the average price was down across vintage, independent, and neo-vintage (1990-2005) watches. Independent brands saw sales fall 24.10% to US$8.47 million and average prices falling 42.17%, while neo-vintage watches experienced the largest decline in sales and lots, with total sales falling 44.7% to US$8.25 million, and average sales price falling 35.73% to US$111,000.

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