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Communication and Collaboration Suffer When Everyone Works Remotely, Study Finds

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remote worker at computer

Remote work caused workers to spend more time using asynchronous communication rather than having conversations in person, by phone, or on video.

Credit: Adobe

Working from home causes workers to become more siloed in how they communicate, engage in fewer real-time conversations, and spend fewer hours in meetings, according to a study of over 61,000 Microsoft employees.

"The Effects of Remote Work on Collaboration Among Information Workers," published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, suggests that a full-time remote workforce may have a harder time acquiring and sharing new information — which could have implications for productivity and innovation among information workers down the road.

The researchers made use of data from before and after Microsoft imposed a company-wide work-from-home mandate in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Significant effort was made to understand the extent to which changes in behavior were caused by remote work in particular rather than the upheaval of the pandemic.

Among the findings: Remote work caused workers to spend about 25% less of their time collaborating with colleagues across groups. Remote work also caused workers to add new collaborators more slowly. Conversely, remote work led workers to communicate more frequently with people in their inner network, and to build more connections within that inner network.

From University of California, Berkeley
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