Microsoft Says Work From Home Is Killing Innovation, Destroying Team Spirit; WFH Is Harmful In Longer Run? (Survey Report)
A new peer-reviewed study from Microsoft has found that in the long term, innovation and collaboration is hampered by remote work.
While short term productivity may rise, long term creativity may take a beating.
Published in Nature Human Behavior, the study researched communications of approximately 61,000 Microsoft employees in the U.S., gathered between December 2019 and June 2020.
What Happened To Communication?
Data analysis showed that when employees began to work from home, the number of worked hours went up slightly.
On the flip side, communication via real-time conversations fell steeply.
It turns out that virtual correspondence over the internet is no match for face-to-face chats in a shared office space.
The researchers say that a worker’s ability to “convey and process complex information” gets adversely affected in the long run due to digital means of information sharing.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella rightly called this phenomenon a paradox where hybrid work improves productivity but simultaneously hinders creativity.
In a blog post, Microsoft observes that this will be a ‘challenge of the decade’- solving the hybrid work paradox.
The study acknowledged that there is “no one-size-fits-all approach”.
The best way to go about this could be through flexibility.
Policies may need to change depending on the needs of a project.
Things To Consider: The Good
Any solution will require an organisation to acknowledge and accommodate both the advantages and disadvantages of remote work.
40% of workers across the globe have said that they would quit their job if they were not allowed the option to work from home.
Remote work helps them ensure their safety and flexibility of work schedule.
They can divide time between family care or even any side employment they may have.
Employers benefit from happier workers and reduced office real estate costs.
Things To Consider: The Bad
If hybrid work is not closely managed, it can result in dissatisfied employees and reduced engagement due to a “digital overload”.
This happens due to a higher number of meetings, chats, and emails which increases the work hours put in by a person.
Despite being satisfied by hybrid work, a significant percentage also want face time with their teams.
Food For Thought
Bear in mind that the study used data collected between December 2019 to June 2020.
This was the early days of the pandemic when everything was uncertain, including how work would shift from offices to homes.
There were clearly more challenges of adjustment to a new normal.
But now things are different. As we near two years of the pandemic, things related to work culture have settled down.
Remote work is no longer daunting and online communication is more familiar.
Therefore, the situation in the current time should be considered by organisations in their decision to recall workers to the office.
The study and its implications alone will not suffice in making that decision.