Written by:
Georgia Harris

Is the rise of Remote
working killing
innovation?

The world is currently running a forced mass experiment in remote working and some of the most prominent tech giants have decided that there’s no going back. In the wake of the pandemic, Facebook, Twitter, Shopify, River Island Tech and others have announced that they’ll offer a permanent option to work from home, to most employees.

We’ve all heard about the benefits. Happier employees increased productivity and a healthier work-life balance. Not to mention (of course) the opportunity to keep a safe distance away from others whilst this pesky virus is still at large.

So, what are the implications?

A recent article by Wired stressed that “many thinkers on innovation talk about the importance of serendipity – the accidental collision of minds and disciplines that can beget new brilliant ideas. Serendipity seems more likely when colleagues, and even competitors, are bumping into each other in an office’s corridor or coffee shops and coworking spaces. The argument goes that none of that will happen if we’re all sitting in home offices at the end of an internet connection.

Until now the start-up culture has very much been about working together in accelerators and incubators, and I can see how that lack of collaboration might harm the development of innovative ideas in the short term.”

Is the rise of remote working killing serendipity? Will we see a knock-on impact on innovation output long term?

We raised these questions with James Church (COO Robot Mascot) in a recent Revoco Talks Q&A,here’s what he said… “I think with all the developments in remote working, and the general trend in recent years towards remote working, the Coronavirus crisis has simply accelerated the idea of a virtual and remote workforce.

I think it’s up to the founders and entrepreneurs of this world to adapt to this change. I don’t think in the long term it will cause a massive loss of innovation; I think we just need to adapt to a new way of working.

I read a report the other week about the way the Coronavirus crisis has accelerated what they’re calling “generation virtual”. We were heading towards a life of virtual work and virtual collaboration; it’s just been accelerated by 5 to 10 years. We’re now in that period of time.

The trouble is that we don’t have the technology yet to make it as effective as it could be. There’s actually going to be a lot of opportunities for entrepreneurs to build products and create innovation that allows for remote collaboration to thrive.

So, while in the short term it may have an impact. I don’t see there being a long-term implication of this. I think if we were to look back at the FTSE 100 in 10 years from now, we’re probably going to see at least one, if not more, companies that were born during the Coronavirus crisis.

These founders wouldn’t have been hindered by innovation and the loss of collaboration. Instead, they’ll have taken the bull by the horns. They’ll have seen problems that needed solving and they’ll have found a way to collaborate with great teams, all over the world. And they’ll have created a unicorn business in the process.”

So maybe, from the outlook of the founders community, this implication should be seen as an opportunity rather than a potential threat?

Our Workplace 2.0 webinar saw us break down the future of the workplace and ways of working in the new world with CEO of Interaction – Dieter Wood and Head of Tech at River Island – Charlie Wilkinson. See what they thought on this issue in the video below…

(Watch more clips from Workplace 2.0 here.)

We’d love to get your perspective on this. What trends are you seeing from your transition to remote work? Has collaboration been impacted?

Got something to share with the wider tech community? Why not join us as a guest at future webinars? Get in touch with us here.

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