The effects of remote work on collaboration among information workers

Longqi Yang, David Holtz, Sonia Jaffe, Siddharth Suri, Shilpi Sinha, Jeffrey Weston, Connor Joyce, Neha Shah1, Kevin Sherman, Brent Hecht and Jaime Teevan

Nature Human Behaviour
September 9, 2021

Abstract: COVID-19 caused a rapid shift to full-time remote work for many information work- ers. Viewing this shift as a natural experiment, where some workers were already working remotely prior to the pandemic, allows us to separate the effects of firm-wide remote work from other pandemic-related confounders. We use rich data on the emails, calendars, in- stant messages, video/audio calls, and workweek hours of nearly 62,000 U.S. Microsoft employees over the first six months of 2020 to estimate the causal effects of firm-wide re- mote work on collaboration and communication. Our results show that firm-wide remote work caused workers’ collaboration network to become more static and siloed, with fewer bridges between disparate parts. Furthermore, there was a decrease in synchronous com- munication and an increase in asynchronous communication. Together, these effects may make it harder for employees to acquire and share new information across the network.

Featured Fellows

David Holtz

Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley
Faculty Affiliate