Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Impact of Mandatory Remote Work during the COVID-19 Pandemic

In the past we have written about using agent-based modeling to study human resources management issues and how workplace the layout might impact subordinates interactions with managers but with growing amounts data we can explore how employees communicate with each other. To this end, Talha Oz and myself have a  new paper entitled "Exploring the Impact of Mandatory Remote Workduring the COVID-19 Pandemic" which will be presented in a special session on COVID-19 at the 2020 International Conference on Social Computing, Behavioral-Cultural Modeling, & Prediction and Behavior Representation in Modeling and Simulation (or SBP-Brims 2020 for short). 

In this study we exploit metadata (and not content) emitted from commonplace workplace technologies such as calendar and workplace messaging apps collected from a tech company in order to see how mandatory remote work changed communication patterns and how such data can be used to measure organizational health. If this is of interest to you, below we provide the abstract to the paper along with some of the results with respect to how meetings and communication patterns changed from  business as usual (BAU), pre pandemic to that when people were forced to work from home (WFH). Finally at the bottom of the post we provide the full reference and the link to the paper.

Abstract. During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people had to work from home. We examine the ways in which COVID-19 affect organizational communication by analyzing five months of calendar and messaging metadata from a technology company. We found that: (i) cross-level communication increased more than that of same-level, (ii) while within-team messaging increased considerably, meetings stayed the same, (iii) off-hours messaging became much more frequent, and that this effect was stronger for women; (iv) employees respond to non-managers faster than managers; finally, (v) the number of short meetings increased while long meetings decreased. These findings contribute to theories on organizational communication, remote work, management, and flexibility stigma. Besides, this study exemplifies a strategy to measure organizational health using an objective (not self-report based) method. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study using workplace communication metadata to examine the heterogeneous effects of mandatory remote work. 

Keywords: Work from Home, Communication, COVID-19, Organization.

Full Reference:

Oz, T. and Crooks, A.T. (2020), Exploring the Impact of Mandatory Remote Work during the COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020 International Conference on Social Computing, Behavioral-Cultural Modeling and Prediction and Behavior Representation in Modeling and Simulation, Washington DC. (pdf)

 If you would like a pre-print of  paper, just let us know and we can email you one. 

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