September 9 (UPI) – According to new research, when employees work remotely, the lines of communication between colleagues, teams and departments are interrupted.
The study of 61,000 Microsoft employees, published Thursday in the journal Nature Human Behavior, found that remote working resulted in more isolated lines of communication and fewer real-time conversations.
While employees worked remotely full-time, employees also spent less time in meetings, which limited opportunities to collaborate and share information.
“Measuring the causal effects of teleworking has historically been difficult because only certain types of workers were allowed to work outside of the office,” said David Holtz, co-author of the study, in a press release.
“That changed during the pandemic when almost anyone who could work from home was required to do so,” said Holtz, assistant professor at the University of California’s Berkeley Haas School of Business.
Since entire workforces were banned from working from home, the researchers were able to measure changes in behavior.
For the study, Holtz and his research partners analyzed anonymized data from thousands of emails, instant messages, calls, meetings and working hours that were logged by Microsoft employees. All of the content and identifying information were extracted from the messages before they were analyzed.
In addition to the communication data, the researchers had access to data about the roles of the employees, the management status, the company group and the length of service with the company.
The researchers analyzed the volume and history of messages – calls, SMS and emails – across different groups of employees. The research team also tracked the time employees spent in scheduled and unplanned meetings.
The data showed that communication networks had shrunk as the workforce began working remotely, with fewer calls, emails, texts and meetings between different teams and departments. The researchers found that cross-group collaboration has decreased by 25%.
However, researchers found that communication within groups was more common. Predictably, higher volumes of text and emails were responsible for the increase in in-group communication, as colleagues spent less time on the phone or in video conferencing while working from home.
With around 15% of Microsoft’s employees being remote before the pandemic, researchers were able to isolate the effects of working from home and working with colleagues remotely.
“The fact that your colleagues’ remote work status affects your own work habits has a significant impact on companies considering hybrid or mixed work policies,” said Holtz.
For example, having teammates and employees in the office at the same time can improve communication and the flow of information for employees in the office as well as those working remotely, he said.
“It is important to think about how these guidelines will be implemented,” said Holtz.