Remote work is making productivity and innovation harder, says Microsoft study
A study of Microsoft employees in the US has concluded that the organization-wide switch to remote working in 2020 damaged communication and collaboration between different teams – while driving up working hours.
A peer-reviewed study of Microsoft's 61,100-plus US workforce found that teams became more siloed and spent less time communicating with those outside of their immediate teams in the months after the software company instructed employees to work from home in March 2020.
The research, which was published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, also found that the exchange of information was stymied by changes in communication methods, with more employees spending less time in face-to-face meetings and more time speaking to each other via instant messaging and email. This meant less information was being shared between colleagues in real time, and more conveyed through less rich, "asynchronous" means.
Taken together, the study concluded that workers were less likely to create and maintain ties with colleagues working in different Microsoft business units, meaning they were also less likely to discover and share new information across the organization.
In an accompanying blog post, Microsoft researchers said that, while bonds were more likely to have been strengthened within teams, remote working in 2020 caused the amount of time workers spent collaborating with other groups to drop 25%.
"In light of these findings, companies will need to take proactive measures to try to help workers acquire and share new information across groups, so that productivity and innovation are not impacted," the researchers said.