The Effects of Remote Work on Collaboration Among Information Workers | Nature Human Behaviour

Workforce Trends

The impact of remote work at scale on organizational collaboration has been a topic of interest but has lacked empirical research. However, last week, a peer-reviewed study was published on this topic. Based on Microsoft’s 61,100+ US workforce, the study analyzed data from employees’ emails, calendars, instant messages, video/audio calls, and workweek hours over the first six months of 2020. Results suggest that employees’ collaboration time with cross-group connections dropped by about 25% of the pre-pandemic level. It proposes that less time in face-to-face meetings and more time speaking to each other via instant messaging and email resulted in a diminished quality of information shared. The study also found that the length of the average workweek inside the company increased by about 10% after the shift to remote work.  It should be noted that the study was conducted from December 2019 to June 2020—when workers had less experience with working remotely. Also, only 18% of Microsoft’s population worked remotely before the pandemic, meaning 82% of the population had to adjust to remote work quickly—likely affecting the results. Still, the study provides empirical data to consider as part of this discussion. You can also check out another recent empirical study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology that explores how cameras impact fatigue during web meetings.

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