Remote work has become one of the hot topics in the world of tech and wider industry. During the COVID-19 pandemic, companies and employees were forced off premises and for many remote work environments have remained. Software providers have responded with services like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, which aim to keep workers connected and collaborative at distance.
However, Microsoft says despite increasingly powerful collaboration software, remote work negatively impacts how people collaborate across an organization. A study from Microsoft Research titled “The effects of remote work on collaboration among information workers” shows there are problems with remote work.
We have heard a lot about how remote work is the future and it has been used hand-in-hand with one of industries buzzwords… collaboration. However, the reality seems to be different from the perception.
It is easy to assume remote work promotes more communication across teams because the only point of contact is digital. However, Microsoft’s study shows a decrease in cross-group collaboration of around 25% compared to on-premises. In other words, teams are becoming more locked in when working remotely and are more likely to only have contact with other members of the team.
To reach its conclusions, Microsoft conducted a widespread study looking at several points of data:
“Here, we use rich data on the emails, calendars, instant messages, video/audio calls and workweek hours of 61,182 US Microsoft employees over the first six months of 2020 to estimate the causal effects of firm-wide remote work on collaboration and communication,” the abstract says.
While remote work is disconnecting cross-group connections, it seems to enhance communication and collaboration within a team. This has some positives, but Microsoft says it also holds back innovation and harms productivity.
Microsoft’s study is interesting and detailed, but the company says conclusions on the impact of remote work will take years and wider data samples.
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