Microsoft study on working from home reveals longer hours and more meetings

midian182

Posts: 5,998   +50
Staff member
In a nutshell: The Coronavirus pandemic means millions of people have suddenly found themselves leaving the office behind and working from home. Some might prefer the situation, but a new study has uncovered a few negatives: employees are working longer and often late into the night.

The study comes from Microsoft, which examined the effects of working from home on 350 of its employees. The results, published in Harvard Business Review, are quite an eye opener.

By looking at de-identified email, calendar, and instant messaging metadata, and comparing it to metadata from before the pandemic, the study found that people were "on" four more hours per week, on average.

It's believed that the reason behind these extra working hours is people taking personal time to care for children, walk the dog, have some fresh air, etc. To make up for these breaks, employees are starting work earlier and signing off later.

Another interesting finding is related to meetings. People are spending 10 percent more time in them, likely due to not bumping into colleagues at the office, but the length of meetings decreased. There were 22 percent more meetings of 30 minutes or less and 11 percent fewer meetings of more than one hour. According to employees, "Our flip to shorter meetings had come about organically, not from any management mandate."

Working from home means managers are communicating more with employees. They sent 115 percent more instant messages, compared to 50 percent more for individual contributors. Additionally, afternoon meetings have taken the place of early morning ones, and IMs saw a 10 percent reduction during the lunch hour, while before the lockdown it was 25 percent.

As people try to catch up on work, a new "night shift" pattern has emerged in which the number of IMs sent between 6 PM and midnight increased 52 percent. The study also showed people who previously worked the least amount of time on weekends saw three times their usual workload.

Other studies have also shown that working from home leads to an increase in the average workday length. Microsoft says it hopes to address this and combat the loneliness many feel by "normalizing manager one-on-ones to help employees gain clarity and connection, increasing small-group meetings to combat the isolation of remote work, and reducing late-night instant messaging to address burnout."

While many companies are now bringing workers back into the office, several tech giants have told employees to stay at home until at least next year. If you’re in the latter camp, check out our Dos and Don'ts of working from home feature.

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hypertotoro

Posts: 11   +30
So instead of sitting all day in the office they are now able to find a better balance between work and relaxation and do the work when it's more convenient for them instead of conforming to a mandated workday frame. Is it really a drawback? I thought it was an advantage, and not only for myself.
 

Mister_K

Posts: 1,946   +627
"It's believed that the reason behind these extra working hours is people taking personal time to care for children, walk the dog, have some fresh air, etc. To make up for these breaks, employees are starting work earlier and signing off later."

I have no kids but I have had personal breaks. Sometimes sign off when I am ment to, other times do 2-3 hours extra. Luckily I mostly enjoy what I do and it's a matter of self improvement anyway, hence why I don't mind putting more hours in.

Although working from home can be a bloody distraction. My "office" and my bedroom are one and the same, so getting motivated can be difficult at times...
 

stewi0001

Posts: 2,422   +1,922
TechSpot Elite
My biggest problem is that I live in a small house, with no private office, and I have 2 kids that want daddy to play with them.

I love my kids but they do make it challenging to focus on work.
 
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Lionvibez

Posts: 1,974   +1,259
My career is in IT been working from home the last 4 months and love it. Having no kids makes a huge difference. And since I'm usually on the computer anyways long hours and extra meetings aren't a big deal at all.

In fact my Boss has been so happy with working from home and the performance of the IT team remotely when things get back to normal I may only be going into the office 1 or 2 times a day. Prior to covid I was in the office 5 days week.

 
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Raytrace3D

Posts: 184   +175
Not having an hour drive into work and having to get dressed up to do it is a massive pro despite the longer work days... The work day feels shorter and I am happier as a result. Isn't that the most important thing anyway?
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 7,384   +5,814
I read one very good study that suggested the reason people tend to work more hours is because they will suddenly discover something reliant and run to the computer to capture it then once there they tend to continue to "clean up" a few more items ...... just human nature for the type A personalities ....
 

hypertotoro

Posts: 11   +30
In fact my Boss has been so happy with working from home and the performance of the IT team remotely when things get back to normal I may only be going into the office 1 or 2 times a day. Prior to covid I was in the office 5 days week.
So prior you were once a day 5 days a week, and after you will need to go 1 or 2 times each day?? That's awful...
 

sorten

Posts: 41   +54
TechSpot Elite
I've neither worked more nor had more meetings, but even if I had it would still be preferable to going into the office. Being able to work in my shorts, take spontaneous walks, etc. has improved my quality of life. I think my company is happy, too.
 

trgz

Posts: 315   +95
My experience of working from home was almost totally positive.
Pros:
No travel (giving me back about 1.5-2 hours a day); dogs by my side with walkies each lunchtime as well as before and after work; no fast food option - just a well stocked fridge and cupboards; decent tea and coffee; no distractions; an environment (decent lighting, and temperature) that only I had control over; availability to accept parcel deliveries; no pointless traipsing to a conference room for a meeting (and I could easily zone-out during conference calls or get on with work).
Cons:
I listened to less music (closed-back headphones and music had been my way to block out the incessant natter of certain louder individuals); no occasional chats to colleagues to give me a break from the screen; having to pay for my own heating etc (though this was intitially subsidised).

I'd started working in shorts&t-shirts in the office back in the early 2000s so nothing changed. I did set myself a firm start/end time together with a solid 1hr lunch, though that I was a little flexible about when I took it. All in all it worked exceptionally well for me.
 

isamuelson

Posts: 140   +32
Wait. They're staying longer? Not me. Yes, I might stay "later" because I can get up later, might do some chores, but overall, I'm doing 40 hrs/week on average. Not more, not less. Not sure what this article is stating. And no, meetings have not increased. In fact, they've decreased. And I get a LOT less shoulder taps interrupting my flow of programming. So I find that I have been MORE productive at home than at the office.
 
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