Microsoft is ending telecommuting. According to a study of the US giant’s workforce, the company’s shift to telecommuting in 2020 negatively affected communication and collaboration between different teams, while increasing working hours. This study of more than 61,100 Microsoft employees in the US reveals that teams became more isolated and spent less time communicating with people outside of their immediate teams in the months after the US giant’s teams transitioned to telecommuting. in March 2020.
The study, published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, also found that information sharing was hampered by changes in communication methods, with employees spending less time in face-to-face meetings and more time with each other. mail. As a result, less information was shared between colleagues in real time and more information was transmitted by less rich and “asynchronous” means.
Overall, the study found that workers were less likely to create and maintain connections with colleagues who worked in different Microsoft business units, which means they were also less likely to discover and share new information across the organization. In a blog post, Microsoft researchers say that while bonds were more likely to have strengthened within teams, telecommuting in 2020 caused a 25% drop in the time employees spent collaborating with other groups. .
Innovation impacted by teleworking?
“In light of these results, companies should take proactive measures to try to help workers acquire and share new information between groups, so that productivity and innovation are not affected,” he warns We are on Microsoft’s side . The results of this study are being made public as companies are increasingly tempted to bring their teams back to the site, plans that have for now been put on hold due to the spread of new variants of Covid-19.
Since sending their employees home in 2020, many companies have announced their intention to continue allowing telecommuting indefinitely, including Twitter, Facebook, Slack, Salesforce, and Quora. Supporters of telecommuting argue that teams don’t need to be face-to-face eight hours a day, five days a week, to get their work done. And argue that working from home reduces commute times, eliminates office distractions, and helps restore some work-life balance.
For Microsoft, regardless of how you combine telecommuting and office work, the resulting change in the way workers communicate could affect a company’s innovation efficiency, creating more isolated organizational teams. “Given that teleworking and hybrid work are likely to persist even after the pandemic ends, it is extremely important to understand how these policies affect the way people collaborate with each other,” says the study published by the US giant.
A criticized study
The Microsoft study received mixed reviews, with critics pointing out that the time period in which the data was collected (December 2019 to June 2020) did not reflect telecommuting.
For critics of this study, it would also be representative of a company whose workforce was traditionally based on offices: the study authors note that only 18% of these employees teleworked before the pandemic, and the remaining 82% had not changed. working from home until March 2020. Microsoft’s shift to telecommuting happened almost overnight, meaning the subsequent impact on communication and collaboration patterns is indicative of a rapidly changing workforce.
Since the forced switch to telecommuting, the digital giants have rapidly developed their collaborative technology offerings. With companies massively adopting video conferencing in 2020, Teams has generated huge revenue for Microsoft, which has consistently released new updates to its communications and collaboration application aimed at bridging the gap between remote and in-person communication.