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The coronavirus-induced pandemic forced the world to adapt to a new normal and organisations across the globe transitioned to a work-from-home setup. While this allowed for people to work from the safety and comforts of their homes, a study revealed that remote work has its fair share of pitfalls too. To determine its effects and long-term consequences, a substantial study was conducted that involved data from 61,182 Microsoft employees in the US. It was found that the tech giant’s workers saw a notable increase in average of length of workweek during the pandemic.
The study, published in the Nature Human Behaviour journal, was driven by the fact that before the COVID-19 pandemic, only close to 5 percent of Americans worked from home, while the number jumped to 37 percent by April 2020.
The results of the study showed that the firm-wide remote work at Microsoft “caused the collaboration network of workers to become more static and siloed.” Remote setups have resulted in “fewer bridges between disparate parts,” the study added, explaining that there was a decrease in synchronous communication among employees.
“Together, these effects may make it harder for employees to acquire and share new information across the network,” the study explained.
However, the study also noted that the 10 percent rise in the average workweek length due to the transition to remote work does not necessarily mean that employees are working longer hours. It could also point to less productivity, researchers said.
“The increase in workweek hours could be an indication that employees were less productive and required more time to complete their work, or that they replaced some of their commuting time with work time,” the study said, adding that they were only able to measure the time between the first and last work activity in a day. “It could also be that the same amount of working time is spread across a greater share of the calendar day due to breaks or interruptions for non-work activities,” the study said.
As per a blog post by Microsoft, the study also showed that remote work led the collaboration time employees spent with cross-group connections to drop by about 25 percent. It also caused the organisational structure at Microsoft to become “less dynamic.”
To arrive at the aforementioned conclusions, the study examined data from the first six months of 2020 that included emails, calendars, instant messages, video/ audio calls, and workweek hours of Microsoft employees.