“Remote Work” While offices have yet to recover to their pre-Covid occupancy levels and smaller towns have new people taking advantage of avoiding the daily trip, remote and hybrid work has become firmly entrenched in South African corporate life. Although the work-from-anywhere experiment might have been successful for seasoned workers in specific roles with dependable co-workers, Linda Trim, the director of Giant Leap, says remote work remains “a big problem to be solved” for many employees and for specific goals.
“First, remote work is worse for new workers,” says Trim. “Many inexperienced employees joining a remote virtual company realise they haven’t joined much of a company at all. They have joined little more than a group video chat.” Trim says creating new teams to take on new responsibilities is substantially more difficult when using remote or hybrid work.
She cites a 2021 Microsoft poll researchers at Berkeley University in California conducted, using 60 000 anonymous employee chat and message records. They discovered that while employees sought to keep up with their co-workers, the volume of messages inside teams increased dramatically, but information sharing decreased.
“This study showed that while people could still manage the ‘hard work’ of emailing and making spreadsheets from anywhere, the most important part of the office is the ‘soft work’ – the chat and informal interactions that build long-term trust and are fundamental to company innovation.” Third, Trim says, remote work is bad for generating disruptive new ideas.
In an analysis of whether virtual teams could brainstorm as creatively as physical teams, 1 500 engineers from Columbia Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Management were employed, says Trim.
“Successful collaboration requires trust and a kind of intimacy that’s hard to build on a Zoom call. The remote-work debate has become deeply polarising between those who consider it a necessity beyond criticism and those who consider it a culture and innovation killer. But it certainly is worth noting what the research says.”