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Microsoft: Moving to work from home is indefinite, and impacted productivity and innovation

Microsoft has given up predicting when they are reopening.    They announced an indefinite delay to reopening yesterday. 

The company also released new updates to Teams, including adding CarPlay to mobile and intelligent camera support.     That space is hot – Google also updated Workspaces with more remote work support this week, including a feature called Spaces to allow real-time collaboration.  

A new, peer-reviewed study by Microsoft researchers of more than 61,000 Microsoft employees finds that the shift to remote work has hurt communication and collaboration among different business groups there.   

The researchers call it a warning sign for other companies, as well.

“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.

And workers are worried about COVID.   The Census Household Pulse survey has been asking about people not working due to being “concerned about getting or spreading the coronavirus”.  After a peak in July 2020, the number had been declining… but after a low between July 21 and August 2, the number is going back up, now at 3.2 million for the period between August 18 and 30th.  

Why do we care?

It’s the key phrase in there about companies being thoughtful about if and how they adopt long term policies.  Isn’t it already long term now?   And with indefinite holds now occurring… well, be thoughtful… now, if you haven’t already been.

And that’s the challenge and focus.    Not a technology challenge but a management one.    Can a business find its way with a reality of a dispersed workforce, with new employee concerns and different management styles.     That’s the interesting opportunity too… and why I track this data.