A study on the effects of working from home carried out on behalf of Microsoft has shown that although working from home is longer, communication and collaboration between different departments is impaired. The increasingly asynchronous communication means that employees are isolated and information is exchanged less often. In the long term, this could have a negative impact on productivity and innovation.
The one in the magazine Nature Human Behavior published study is based on the data and communication of almost 62,000 Microsoft employees in the USA in the first six months of 2020. In March 2020, Microsoft ordered home offices due to the coronavirus pandemic, so that the working conditions could be compared.
Before the pandemic broke out, only nearly 5 percent of Americans worked from home more than three days a week. In April 2020, on the other hand, it was 37 percent who spent full-time in the home office. In the tech industry, it was significantly higher, as many companies like Twitter, Facebook, Square, Box, Slack, and Quora have sent their employees home to work.
Less direct communication, less innovation
According to the study, employees spent less time in face-to-face one-on-one conversations and instead relied on asynchronous communication via email or text messages. Only within the departments did a stronger feeling of togetherness develop, while communication with other departments was significantly restricted. To Information from Microsoft communication between different departments has decreased by 25 percent. As a result, information has spread more slowly within the company.
The study therefore requires companies to take measures to make it easier for employees in the home office to get information from other areas of the company. Otherwise, productivity and innovation could be impaired. Microsoft agrees with the results of the study and explains that internal company communication is important for innovation. Home work and hybrid models will continue even after the pandemic has ended, so it is important to have appropriate guidelines for communication.
Critic: Study not representative
The study is after a Report from ZDNet but also criticized. Accordingly, the time frame of the study is not representative of the introduction of home office under normal circumstances. Because of the pandemic, working from home was introduced practically overnight, so the sudden changes had an extreme impact on employees. In addition, only 18 percent of Microsoft employees worked from home before the pandemic. For the remaining 82 percent, working from home in March 2020 was a completely new experience.
How the large IT companies from the USA deal with a possible return to the office after the extensive change of their workforce to the home office has been carefully observed for months. Most recently, Facebook, Apple, Google & Co. had postponed the announced dates for this further and further, mainly because the number of infections in the USA is rising sharply again due to the delta variant of the corona virus. Facebook, Google and Amazon had already postponed the planned opening of the offices to the beginning of 2022, and Microsoft is now the first large corporation that no longer mentions a date. Several companies had also announced that they would only allow vaccinated people into the buildings.