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Work Unleashed — Where, When, and How We Work is Changing

collaboration remote work Workspace

Welcome to our Work Unleashed series: a collection of posts from Box executives and conversations with Box customers on navigating the “new normal” of work today. Here, you’ll find insights and resources that enable your teams to do their best work, anywhere, anytime.

Over the past few weeks, the world has been thrust into remote and distributed work. Everyone has felt this change to some degree, but because Box is used by millions of people and nearly 100,000 businesses globally, we wanted to understand what this new world of work looks like, and importantly, to see if we could observe the new behaviors that might become the “new normal” for how many of us will work in the future. 

To do this, our Data Science team analyzed a massive set of completely anonymized data from usage patterns around Box. So far, they’ve learned that while this transformation is playing out differently in various industries and regions, a clear picture is forming:

1. The workday is changing. People are shifting more work outside of the normal 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. business day. WFH introduces flexibility into the day, plus we’re all juggling childcare and other home responsibilities.

2. Digital collaboration is increasing. Document sharing and collaboration have increased as dispersed workers and teams find new ways to connect and move projects forward. 

3. We’re using more apps, and we’re using them together.We’re all using video conferencing, chat, and messaging apps for real-time collaboration, and we’re all using cloud file sharing tools. But we’re also seeing people use these tools together more than ever as we settle into our own new virtual work habits.

Let’s dive into the data.

1.The workday is changing.

With schools closing, family members to take care of, and essentially no commutes, we’re all “flattening the curve” of the business day. Work is 24/7, but the lines between “work time” and “home time” are blurring together.

This graph shows how our working hours have changed vs. last year, measured by the number of times our users are looking at content in Box (limited to US Pacific Time users to control for time zone differences). We can see that activity on the edges — the early hours of the morning and the evening — has increased, while the core work hours leading up to and right after lunch have seen a slight decline. That means work is shifting to the off-hours, which, for many families, means the kids are asleep. Interestingly, we’re still powering through lunch to get work done.

This phenomenon so far has been relatively consistent across different industries, though some have seen the change happen more dramatically. Overall, views of files on Box during the off-hours of 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. increased +20% year-over-year. Among industries, the highest growth in off-hours work was in transportation and logistics, industrial goods and automotive, professional services, public sector, and consumer goods.

As for the moment when people started working from home, it’s clear that different states in the US shifted at different times, largely related to developments like statewide policies. By analyzing shifts in the locations that our users logged in from, we can see a clear pattern.

Washington state, which saw the earliest outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S., saw the first drop in users logging in from their company’s primary location. During the first week of March, we saw a 20% shift in the primary location of users in Washington state, suggesting they were starting to work from home. By the third week of March, the majority of Washington customers (>50%) had shifted Box access away from their primary location. Looking at a broad mix of other states, they showed similar shifts in the following weeks, as seen below:  

Looking around the world: Italy, which was strongly affected by COVID-19 first, was unsurprisingly also the first country to shift en masse toward working from home.

2. Digital collaboration iincreasing.

With more dispersed teams, businesses are finding it increasingly important to remain digitally connected on their work. During the push toward remote work, total collaboration has grown 19% — measured by comparing collaboration invites sent in the last two weeks of February 2020 vs. the last two weeks of March 2020. We’ve seen that not only is there more collaboration happening within companies, but also between different companies, and these trends apply to many industries. 

We saw the most pronounced upticks in industries that have been central to the response to COVID-19 and public health. The state and local governments industry has had the largest increase in collaboration, with a 142% increase in collaboration invites sent in the February 2020 cohort vs. March 2020 cohort. Other industries with large increases: healthcare providers with a 30% uptick, and life sciences companies with a 27% increase over the same time period.

Even industries that aren’t using Box to actively mitigate the impact of COVID-19 are seeing increases in collaboration between February and March. For example, there’s been significant growth in marketing and advertising (+19%) and media and entertainment (+15%).

So, what kinds of files and data are all these companies sharing and collaborating on? We looked at the top 10 file types stored in Box by industry. There are some definitely commonalities between industries (hi, PDFs!) but are also many file types that are more unique to certain industries. For example, DICOM images, which include things like X-rays, are increasingly being shared in healthcare for telemedicine. And in AEC, large CAD files are also migrating to the cloud.

3. We’re using more apps, and we’re using them together.

It’s obvious that we’re seeing increased usage of digital communication tools like Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and WebEx during these times. But we’re also seeing that people need digital ways to collaborate on their content during these virtual meetings, since we can no longer physically whiteboard ideas or mark up documents.

We’ve seen an increase across the board in usage of Box integrations with these types of messaging, video, and editing tools to round out our transition from physical to digital collaboration. 

Messaging tools (like Slack and Microsoft Teams) and video tools (like Zoom and Cisco WebEx) are seeing the biggest increases in Box integration usage, as you see in the chart below. Looking at the same February and March data above, we’ve observed a 84% increase in messaging tool integration usage and a 71% increase for video tools.

Wrapping Up

We’re excited to observe how these trends may evolve in the coming weeks and even months. While we do expect some of these shifts to potentially modulate as social distancing measures eventually relax, we have an instinct that many of these new patterns of work are going to be here to stay over the long run.

It’s certainly impressive how quickly the old rules of 9 to 5 and daily trips to the office have been replaced by flexible, work-from-anywhere schedules and teams that span traditional workplace boundaries. The technology is now in place to support a much more distributed and virtual workforce for many companies and industries. 

The future of work is here. We’ll be following along and sharing our insights along the way. 

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