When Microsoft's massive workforce all went remote back in March, the software giant scrambled to adapt like everyone else. They also decided to use this great disruption to measure how work patterns across the company were changing (using mostly a team of 350 on its Modern Workplace Transformation team) using internal analytics tools and anonymous sentiment surveys. How will employees integrate — and separate — work and home life under the same roof? Will they be able to maintain our relationships and networks without our typical face-to-face connections? Will they collaborate differently in order to get our work done? How will managers support and engage these remote teams?
The study looked weekly at areas such as work-life balance and collaboration by analyzing aggregated, de-identified email, calendar, and IM metadata; comparing it with metadata from a prior time period; and inviting colleagues to share their thoughts and feelings.
One key takeaway: Workdays were lengthening. People were “on” four more hours a week, on average. Employees were taking more personal time throughout the day to care for children, exercise, and walk the dog. In exchange, they were likely signing into work earlier and signing off later.
Also, while weekly meeting time increased by 10%, individual meetings actually shrank in duration thanks to the rise of the 30-minute check-in. Microsoft saw 22% growth in meetings of 30 minutes or less and 11% fewer meetings of more than one hour.
They also found that multitasking during meetings didn’t spike even though people weren’t in the same room. Overall, the researchers didn't find a clear negative or positive trend. People are still trying to figure it all out. We need more time to know the real short- and long-term impacts of the massive shift to remote work on their employees, customers, and other stakeholders. One area that needs work is how people are repurposing their commute time for meeting.