Even before Corona, one in five Microsoft employees regularly used their home office.
But too much of the home work has a negative impact on communication and collaboration, according to a new study.
Redmond, USA - Working from home is very popular in Germany: Around one in five people no longer want to go to the office, even after Corona.
The number of home office job advertisements has also tripled.
The technology giant Microsoft was obliged to work from home during the corona pandemic.
But even before Corona, 20 percent of Microsoft employees worked in their own four walls.
The ideal data situation for a study: The technology company based in Redmond, USA wanted to find out how working from home affects communication and collaboration in the company.
The study by Longqi Yang and colleagues was carried out in collaboration with David Holtz, who conducts research at MIT and the University of California.
Microsoft study: Home office complicates the flow of communication
Before the corona pandemic, five percent of Americans were working from home; in April 2020 it was already 37 percent. Many technology companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Slack or Quora announced that they want to keep home offices largely after the pandemic. But is that a good idea?
The structure of networks has a decisive influence on the success of individuals and organizations, according to the researchers. When it comes to corporate communication, the study authors differentiate between strong and weak connections between employees. Employees with close relationships can share information more easily and cooperate more easily. They also attach more importance to the fact that the information exchanged is understandable for colleagues and can actually be used. Maintaining weak connections, on the other hand, takes less time. And there is another decisive advantage: Because of weak ties, employees have more frequent access to new information.
The research carried out by the researchers is based on data from over 60,000 employees, which were collected in the first six months of 2020.
The data shows that employees working from home were less networked and spent less time working together with their existing networks.
Employees communicated more with their already close connections, so they had less access to new information.
Microsoft study: In the long term, innovation in companies suffers
The authors of the study point out, however, that the behavior observed by employees could also be due to changed framework conditions during the pandemic. For example, it could be that employees were generally less focused because the global pandemic caused stress. Another disruptive factor could be the fact that many employees had to look after their children, for example. As a result, however, the authors state that employees who work from home are more isolated. Communication channels via official business units are becoming fewer. Delayed types of communication such as e-mail also increased, making it more difficult to exchange complex information.
A possible conclusion could be that these changes have a negative impact on the exchange of information and therefore also have a negative impact on the output of the employees. In the long term, this could have an impact on innovation in the company. But the study authors suggest that further research is needed to quantify the true effect of home office on productivity and communication.