As we recorded the last episode of our first season of the MAP Room podcast, we spoke about the opportunities and challenges of remote working with Karen Reyburn, who founded a remote first business before this was a thing.
It seems to me that it doesn’t matter how many people I talk to there is evidently no perfect scenario, and that just as each business is different, then so is the best working practices for that business and their people.
On the one hand, research at MIT found that remote work “weakens the cross-functional, inter-team ties that form the basis for the exchange of new ideas that tend to foster innovation”, and a study by Microsoft similarly found that remote work “weakens innovation, since workers communicate less with those outside their own teams”.
On the other hand, McKinsey research points to a different conclusion.
It found that, during the more than two years of the pandemic, there had been a record number of new patents across 150 global patent filing authorities, whilst at the same time global venture capital more than doubled from 2020.
McKinsey suggested that it’s because the more innovative companies naturally developed new ways of connecting remote workers to “build and sustain the cross-functional, inter-term ties necessary for innovation, allowing these organisations to actually widen the pools of minds that could generate new ideas”. Deloitte similarly highlighted how adapting the process of innovation to remote settings offered the key to boost innovation for hybrid and remote teams.
There is no doubt that the technology and solutions available to support all kinds of collaborative working are there and many of us have found ways to weave those into our everyday operations.
I think that fundamentally it comes down to your people.
I don’t just mean their personality types, which of course will have their own impact, but I do believe that this is probably another physical generational split, that for good or bad will have its own permanent effect.
In the same way that the Internet often divided the workplace of the Nineties and Noughties into those that had only ever worked on line and those for whom it was still a cultural challenge, then the difference between those that always took work to mean a commute to a 9 to 5 location 5 days a week, and those for whom the office is now just an add on, or interference, to their self managed week, will remain for some time to come.
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