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Microsoft study doubts if remote voles are really working

by on13 September 2021

Voles are not as productive as they once were

A new study finds that Microsoft's companywide shift to remote work has hurt communication and collaboration among different business groups inside the company, threatening employee productivity and long-term innovation.

A peer-reviewed study of more than 61,000 Microsoft employees, in the journal Nature Human Behaviour identified what they called a warning sign for other companies.

"Without intervention, the effects we discovered have the potential to impact workers' ability to acquire and share new information across groups, and as a result, affect productivity and innovation", they write in an accompanying blog post.

"In light of these findings, companies should be thoughtful about if and how they choose to adopt long-term work-from-home policies."

The Microsoft study says remote work has also changed the way employees communicate, causing them to rely more frequently than before on asynchronous communication, such as email and instant messages, and less frequently than before on synchronous communication, such as audio and video calls. "Based on previous research, we believe that the shift to less 'rich' communication media may have made it more difficult for workers to convey and process complex information", the Microsoft researchers write. The study is based on an analysis of anonymised data about emails, calls, meetings, and other work activities by Microsoft employees.

Microsoft published a blog post summarising the results of its own surveys of Microsoft employees — an opt-in survey of a random sample of 2,500.

The blog said that in a year when it sent 160,000 people home to work and remotely onboarded 25,000 new employees, the share of people who report feeling included at Microsoft is at an all-time high of 90 percent. According to surveys, employee confidence and support from managers is also at an all-time high.

Our ongoing research shows employees crave more in-person time with their team but wish to keep the flexibility of remote work.

And Microsoft's LinkedIn also surveyed more than 500 C-level executives in the US and UK  "to better understand how employers are thinking about navigating this new world of work.

"Top of mind for executives is the same thing on the minds of employees — flexibility. With 87 percent of people saying they would prefer to stay remote at least half the time, a majority of employers are adapting: 81 percent of leaders are changing their workplace policies to offer greater flexibility."

Leaders feel like there are opportunities ahead — more than half are optimistic that flexibility will be good for both people and the business.

Last modified on 13 September 2021
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