London, Frankfurt, Paris, New York, each of these huge global cities are related in that they are major nerve centres of creativity. These cities started to buzz for a reason: vital business meetings of national importance were taking place, Business owners and idea makers were putting their heads together to invent exciting new technologies, and go-getters met over flaming sambuca’s and expresso coffees to discuss startup ideas. Now we all seem to be working from home in social isolation.
The physical setting really did matter; the bricks and mortar of a downtown office block and the in-person interaction that comes with that. Yet, in a step toward making distant work a lasting future, Facebook and Google, for example, told their staffs that they can work from home until July 2021. We know that the nature of jobs has changed into ‘digital by default’ so this is the result we might reasonably expect.
Indeed, a study by Google on distance workers found “no difference in the effectiveness, productivity ratings or promotions for individuals and teams whose work requires teamwork with coworkers around the world versus ‘Googlers’ who spend the majority of their daily collaborating with colleagues in the same office.”.
Nevertheless, some people might justifiably claim that staff working from home could potentially hinder product development and innovation. Tyler Cowen writing in Bloomberg said that “Even as tech companies grow more essential, the geographic distribution of company activity will also make them less unique. They’ll start to resemble a typical cross-section of the workforce, with all of the routines and bureaucracy that most other companies experience. They’ll have less fire in the belly to disrupt and overturn previous institutions.”
This is not a completely new trend. IBM, the pioneer of teleworking, eliminated nearly all of its office work years ago, and then released a report entitled “Challenging the modern myths of remote working, the evidence for the upside of teleworking.” Back in 2014, they boasted about their innovative modern business model with over 45 per cent of their employees working from home. But one also has to consider that WFH on a large scale can destroy the innovation hubs that have popped up in places like silicon valley or Shoreditch in East London.
Offices have been discarded for Discord Servers, Zoom, Slack Channels and the like. Over the last few months, multiple news sources have confirmed that people are forsaking from cities towards urban and rural areas. Could this Covid-19 pandemic really decentralize tech opportunities out of just a few hotspots, such as London and New York?.
These developments have huge ramifications for the global innovation landscape as a whole. Here at hold Everything we see the future being mapped out before our eyes. Large office suites are being rationalised into more compact meeting areas with employees working out from their homes. The sprawling office of the past has turned into an agile set of services, call answering, mail forwarding and meeting rooms by the hour.
Nevertheless, to say that working from home will mark the end of innovation is an exaggeration. As per Raconteur and Professor Bernd Irlenbusch, who co-led a study titled Innovation and communication media in virtual teams: an experimental study, by the University of Cologne and Leibniz University Hannover, “Previous research has shown that creative performance is significantly lower when there is no face-to-face communication. However, the current lockdown has fostered the adoption of new technologies to conduct collaborative tasks when team members work from home. Video conferencing can mitigate the gap in creative performance.”.
We will work remotely but human contact is part of our human makeup and we will need to set up new routines with augmented reality (such as social online meetings) that can be put in place to foster collaboration and more human-like meetings instead of solely relying on cold, unemotional Zoom meetings.
The most important takeaway that emerges is that working from home means that a new species of entrepreneur has emerged, and those who adapt quickest will be best-suited moving forward. Hold Everything will be there to help with our fully serviced, totally agile, virtual office.