The effects of remote work on Collaboration among information workers
In Economics, there is a research methodology called Difference in Differences (DiD). DiD is typically used to estimate the effect of a specific intervention or treatment (such as a passage of the law, enactment of policy, or large-scale program implementation) by comparing the changes in outcomes over time between a population that is enrolled in a program (the intervention group) and a population that is not (the control group). The famous Card and Kreuger study of 1994 leveraged this model to prove that the increase in minimum wages (in this case, a comparison between the US states of NJ and Pennsylvania) did not decrease the FTE jobs in fast-food restaurants.
In September – 2021, Nature Human behavior published a significant study using a similar DiD technique using Microsoft information workers (tech workers) data. Yang, L., Holtz, D., Jaffe, S. et al. The effects of remote work on Collaboration among information workers. Nat Hum Behav (2021).
Crunching the numbers revealed that while hours worked went up slightly when employees shifted to working from home, communication, particularly real-time conversations, fell significantly. One of the statements caught my attention. The study states that firm-wide remote work ossified workers’ ego networks, made the network more fragmented, and made each fragment more clustered. (Ossification here refers to people who usually worked in an office instead of remote before the pandemic). This result means an ego network (network of people with similar interests) is formed, and people operate in this well-fragmented network.
This report is a good study, but I raise the following two questions for this study:
- The datasets used in this study is from Dec-2019 to June 2020 – a time frame when we were still figuring out the pandemic
- Who can definitively state that such stratification and clustering did not exist when we all went to an office and worked. At least in the digital way of working through platforms like Slack, you improve connections to the worker across categories. At least now, we are in the journey of knowing if there could be a Ph.D. at the bagging counter/front line of a company that may be able to solve your complex mathematical problems. The odds of better Collaboration is higher in the digital way of working
Perhaps, we need to look at what Marc Benioff stated in Dreamforce 2021 keynote. Benioff stated that the World faces Health, Workforce, Sustainability, Inequitability, and trust crisis. We have to develop a set of competencies to address all aspects of what Benioff has highlighted
If you look through this lens, Collaboration is not a function of working in the same building. In Boundaryless companies, it is critical to understand what Future capabilities we need to excel in Collaboration and innovation. Contrary to a high-level list, we have provided a few essential and detailed competencies that organizations need to focus on. Critical competency Blocks prepare your enterprise for the next age of innovation and Collaboration (our hope is this will be more utility-driven).
- Drug Manufacturing Locations – Science companies cannot afford to make the same mistake that Intel did a few years back – not concentrating on manufacturing and overly relying on contract supplies, leading to chip crisis. In 2021, Intel decided to spend over 20 billion in manufacturing chips. It will take some time to rebound. mRNA companies need to create a library of global manufacturing locations and build this capability in a big way
- Creator Platform Enablement: Last week, Disney created, Disney Creators lab, which provides an opportunity to learn about social media techniques. This will help people market their content online, and by taking the lead in training them, Disney plans to influence the influencers over time. Many companies do not have a proper plan to leverage creators in the digital space. Today, this is focused on marketing but will quickly evolve into all aspects of work. Various aspects of digital marketing fall under this
- Platform Economic Enablement: Under this block come aspects of preparing the enterprise for leveraging Contingent labor, part-time labor, targeted SMEs, and other aspects. Many companies are launching project boot camps to bring in common ideation across various types of labor.
- Data and Analytics as a Competency: Across all workforce segments, companies need to amplify data analysis skills and teach employees about data limitations. A mere attempt to build data lakes may not mean that data competency is increasing. Various aspects of Data Science and Cybersecurity fall under this. Aspects of People Analytics and Workforce Planning will fall under this as well (the application of which will impact all the categories)
- Health Cloud 2.0: For onsite Collaboration, establishing proper contact tracing and the associated infrastructure around this. From testing to overall employee wellness, health has emerged as a critical competency to be managed
- An extensive data-driven Comp Modeling: Compensation is changing dramatically. Enterprises need excellent variable compensation modelers and start looking at out-of-box thinking. Can you help your crucial marketing employee become an Instagram influencer even if you can’t pay them much bonus? What is the value of such an activity? All these questions have to be understood
- Empathy is a Skill: This is not a nice skill to have; this is a must to design new-age products and solutions for customers and employees.
- Reskilling Simulation: How many reskilling Simulations did we conduct this week? No CEO asks this question to a CHRO or a CLO, unfortunately (to my knowledge). This has to change, and we need to measure more metrics
- Recruitment as a Science: We have written several times on this. Recruitment should be made more scientific. Embedded in this is both Early career and late Career Recruitment. If Tesla had not hired Peter Rawlinson from Lotus cars in Europe, there would be no Tesla Motors. That is the power of Recruitment
- Sustainability: Sustainability is everything, and Enterprises are only learning the basics of it and will emerge as a critical competency
- Diversity: Highly diverse organizations (gender, ethnicity, neuro, cognitive, and all forms of diversity) will bring out more competitive, highly scalable products and solutions. It will also act as an enterprise to attract and grow innovative talent
- →Workforce are reskilled
- →1.0 A more profound sense of Pay and its Impact. Having a very detailed sensitivity analysis conversations with the business on how much market you can access is highly critical
- →2.0 Impacting the Recruitment Experience through data:
- →Role and Responsibilities of a Solutionist
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