The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused a rapid shift to full-time remote work for many information workers. Viewing this shift as a natural experiment in which some workers were already working remotely before the pandemic enables us to separate the effects of firm-wide remote work from other pandemic-related confounding factors. Here, we use rich data on the emails, calendars, instant messages, video/audio calls and workweek hours of 61,182 US Microsoft employees over the first six months of 2020 to estimate the causal effects of firm-wide remote work on collaboration and communication.
Our results show that firm-wide remote work caused the collaboration network of workers to become more static and siloed, with fewer bridges between disparate parts. Furthermore, there was a decrease in synchronous communication and an increase in asynchronous communication. Together, these effects may make it harder for employees to acquire and share new information across the network.
I was attempting to understand this in the context of tele-medicine. Does remote work or providing assistance from far affect? How do the dynamics play out while staying in the same premises? Does the intra-departmental collaboration speed up efficiency workflows? What determines the outcomes? Patterns of referral to other specialities? Time saved for patients? Could we have a complete remote working hospital and still be successful?
This represents some quantification of data and interpersonal relatioships.
From their discussion:
We expect that the effects we observe on workers’ collaboration and communication patterns will impact productivity and, in the long-term, innovation. Yet, across many sectors, firms are making decisions to adopt permanent remote work policies based only on short-term data.
Specifically, the non-trivial collaborator effects that we estimate suggest that hybrid and mixed-mode work arrangements may not work as firms expect. The most effective implementations of hybrid and mixed-mode work might be those that deliberately attempt to minimize the impact of collaborator effects on those employees that are not working remotely; for example, firms might consider implementations of hybrid work in which certain teams come into the office on certain days, or in which most or all workers come into the office on some days and work remotely otherwise.
I guess a remote functional environment is detrimental to the employees mental health too – attempting to get everything functional doesn’t boil down to an IT problem. There are many factors at play. It will need a radical overhaul of the hospital functional enviornment.
Patients still might see some oncologists driving down in their Ferraris and that’s an important social signal. You can’t show off your car (unless as a zoom background!)