Reading one of today’s The Information articles, I thought there were some nuggets really worth sharing. Link to the full article below.
Google engineers found it harder to manage their workloads while working remotely, particularly if they were new to the job. The findings from internal Google data point to the drawbacks of remote work.
Signs that working remotely has prevented Google coders from getting their job done might discourage CEO Sundar Pichai from committing to a more permanent work-from-home policy. It also could feed into a growing debate across many industries about whether employees can work as effectively if they are physically distanced from their colleagues.
Since Google sent most of its 200,000-plus workforce home in March, Pichai has said some aspects of remote work have gone well, although he has questioned how productive teams will be when it comes to working on new projects.
[It was] said in an email that “only 53%” of engineers felt satisfied with their ability to manage their workloads. The problem was “particularly pronounced” among short-tenured employees, and he described Google engineers’ productivity sentiment as being “at its lowest levels,” though it’s unclear to what time frame he was referring.
Those who felt unable to manage their workloads spent 30% less time coding compared to an earlier period, according to data tracked by his team, DevIntel (developer intelligence). The concerned or dissatisfied Google engineers who spent less time coding also submitted 45% fewer “changelists” (CLs, attempted changes to Google’s code repository) during the recent period, Bachman wrote. By comparison, engineers who were neutral or satisfied with their workloads submitted 20% fewer changelists. The number of CLs is a key metric the company uses to track productivity.
“We aren’t all set up to work from home successfully,” said Liz Fosslien, an executive at workplace consultancy Humu. “A lot of these cracks are starting to show as the crisis continues.”
In the second-quarter survey, key factors that Google said it knows influence productivity, like clear communication among team members, dropped compared to the previous quarter.
In another section, which highlighted the challenges of working from home, they listed spotty internet connections and, especially for new engineers, gaps in documented instructions. One employee suggested engineers create and update guidelines for important workflows. “This is especially important now because it’s much harder to get someone to just show me how to do something,” they said.
When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in May announced plans for a more liberal work-from-home policy after the pandemic subsides, he said more than 50% of surveyed Facebook workers said they had been more productive while working from home.
Some Facebook employees, however, are concerned teams will work less productively with a remote boss, The Information reported last week. Zuckerberg did not give details on his engineering staff in his May announcement.
Last month, Pichai said Google would likely adopt a hybrid approach after it’s safe to return to the office, which could mean more flexibility regarding when employees can work from home.
That’s a slightly cooler reception to working remotely than the ideas put forth by Twitter, Facebook and more recently Microsoft.
On Friday, Microsoft unveiled its future work plans, saying it would consider working from home up to 50% of the time “standard.” It will also allow employees to request to work remote permanently, relocate, or even cut down on hours to become part-time.
I’m reading similar articles. I wonder how much is because it we were so reliant on the way we’ve been traditionally running projects that this is just a reaction to that (or resistance to adapting the way we work). Also, most companies (ours included) had to pivot so fast to remote that we’re still catching up with building these new skills on how to effectively Lead remotely and manage projects remotely, and add in the right technologies to enable collaboration. That’s where I’ve been reading lately and there is a lot of great content from companies that have been mostly remote even before COVID (they’re probably laughing some at the rest of us too).
Oh….and then big one too that absolute affects productivity is that our kids are running around at least part of the time at home, if not all. I’ve definitely felt that challenge, and know it’s harder to get into a deep work focus, or not be pulled away for something for their school.
I’d love to hear what changes have worked for others as they’ve adapted.
It’s natural that a pendulum that has swung to 100% remote work will have to rebalance itself over time based on the type of work that might be hard to accomplish remotely, the balance of roles on teams that are most effective in remote work situations, the type of debilitating stress team-mates face because of their life stage and other factors that impact performance, etc. etc. We should have been studying and applying the answers to theses and more questions years ago…but it really wasn’t that much of a priority, Now it is.