The Effects of COVID-19 on Business Collaboration on Pure AI

I contributed to an article titled “The Effects of COVID-19 on Business Collaboration” in the October 2021 edition of the online Pure AI web site. See

A group of Microsoft analysts investigated how work collaboration patterns at their company changed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The results were published in an online article titled “The Effects of Remote Work on Collaboration Among Information Workers” by L. Yang, D. Holtz, et al. (September 9, 2021) on the Nature Human Behavior web site.

Data from approximately 60,000 employees during the period December 2019 to June 2020 was collected and examined. Not surprisingly, the data analysis revealed that the shift to remote work caused a reduction in the interconnections between both formal business groups and informal communities. This reduction in communication diversity has potential negative consequences for business creativity and innovation.

The number of between-group bridging ties decreased significantly after the onset of COVID-19 for traditional office workers.

An additional, somewhat surprising finding was that after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the total amount of time Microsoft employees spent in meetings actually decreased by approximately 5 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels. The analysts hypothesized that the reduction in time spent in meetings was possibly due to indirect factors, perhaps such as the increased amount of time a parent needed for at-home school and childcare.

I was quoted in the article, “The goal of the program I direct is to infuse advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning systems into products and services. These efforts require communicating very complex ideas along with coordinating complicated logistical information. We’re finding that real-time person-to-person communication is critically important for the design of innovative new systems and algorithms, but that email communication is highly effective for managing our logistical activities.”

And, “Many of my colleagues and I agree that unplanned impromptu conversations, often next to the workplace coffee machine, are extremely important for generating new ideas. Remote work largely eliminates this idea-generation channel.”

Business communication is mostly about the exchange of information. Art communication is entirely different. Three vaguely similar paintings in the Impressionist style. Left: By Berthe Morisot (1874–1892). Center: By Konstantin Razumov (b. 1974). Right: By Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939).

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