New research touts the benefits of working together in person.
In 2019, Microsoft Head of People Analytics Dawn Klinghoffer said 61 percent of the company's team were all in the same location. As of this year, that number is down to 27 percent.
While research indicates that most employees don't want to go back to the pre-pandemic landscape, new Microsoft engagement research suggests in-person work could benefit company culture.
The research maintains that the number of in-office days companies require is the most important issue. In fact, the data indicates three specific opportunities for managers to leverage in-person time to be the most beneficial for employees and the company.
Team cohesion exercises. Ninety-three percent of surveyed Microsoft employees are confident working within a team, but there's room for improvement; thirty-seven percent of comments on in-person activities suggested social and team-building events, including a "team week" to help companies define employee roles more clearly.
Onboarding. There are two groups of new employees who start a new role: those who meet their manager in person within the first 90 days of employment and those who don't. According to the research, employees who met their new manager in person were more likely to seek feedback, provide input, and build strong relationships with their colleagues.
In-person training, if possible, is critical to building those relationships, the research found. Microsoft notes that 79 percent of employees who have met their manager in person ask for feedback from their colleagues; that's 10 percent higher than employees who haven't met their manager in person. In-office employees receive closer guidance and immediate feedback that isn't as readily available for employees working outside the office.
Project kickoffs. In the early stages of a new project, it's important to get everyone on the same page. Survey respondents shared that in-person initial customer engagement and planning sessions boost team collaboration.
Those early sessions also allow for brainstorming sessions that can move projects along more efficiently. A 2022 Nature research article, "Virtual Communication Curbs Creative Idea Generation," found that virtual groups generate fewer creative ideas than in-person groups.