What if remote work at home should never have lasted this long?
As someone who has worked in the office for decades, I have been wondering for some time about the benefits of working remotely. I recently read a new book on AI and automation that made me wonder if remote work is for me.
For years, I’ve wondered why it seems like I’ve never really “inflated” the latest office chatter and find it so hard to get contextual information.
As an example with one recent role, I didn’t realize that a colleague actually had a minor leg and ankle injury and was wearing braces. You don’t know that from the Zoom video chat. In another, I had no idea the main office had free cookies and cracked all day in the lounge. Definitely rude!
We seem to be missing something.
In his new book called Future proof, Dear New York Times columnist Kevin Roose (not to be confused with Digg founder Kevin Rose) explained what was actually going on. In fact, when I read it, I stopped at the page.
“People who have regular personal contacts with their colleagues have an advantage when it comes to doing the kind of deeply human work we will have to do in the future,” the book says, further explaining that we are “frustrated by how difficult it is to generate creative ideas, build teamwork and new employees on Zoom calls and Slack threads. “
The book notes that Adobe and Netflix executives are not advocates of long-term telecommuting. Roose even explains how Reed Hastings plans to return employees to the office “twelve hours after vaccination approval”. I won’t spoil where Roose came from, but he cites several studies and explains how what I would call “working osmosis” is the key to the future office landscape.
“One of the reasons people who work remotely are more productive is that they find it harder to work longer,” he explained to me recently in a chat at the Clubhouse. “But there are trade-offs in things like creativity and collaboration. People find it harder to solve complex problems when they are in the same room. There is something that is lost by remote work. “
He also says our global economy is moving toward softer human skills because “AI is making more and more pure toy productivity”.
What he thinks is that when we walk away from the business office and stop working with people in person, we become more and more endpoints. We are starting to increasingly compete with artificial intelligence that is highly automated and designed to replace human labor.
Roose said he learned about journalism early in his career only from an environment with other writers. He heard conversations about the water cooler and the phone.
I kept thinking about that leg carrier. What else do I miss? Great idea that someone mentions in a conversation in the parking lot. The times when a person from accounting switches to marketing and mentions a funny story from an article, which leads to the invention of a completely new product.
Osmosis is more valuable than any of us think. With technology, ideas are always linear. The information goes from point A to point B and never travels far from that route. With human interaction he travels in attacks and starts (in a good way).
In a recent conversation on a podcast, an author who popularized the concept of EQ (or emotional intelligence) explained how there is a form of EQ called cognitive empathy, which is our ability to speak and communicate in the way we care most someone understands us, not u sharing what we know.
It’s fascinating because we don’t recognize these hints in video chat, which means our cognitive empathy is briefly altered. We only transmit information. That’s why I’ve always hated Skype calls.
What are we going to do about it?
I doubt Roose wants everyone back in the office tomorrow, but maybe soon. What he says in the book is that we need to solve the problem. He suggests you change your role or find a way to stop competing with automation. My suggestion is just as dramatic: if you feel like the endpoint as Roose suggests, maybe it’s time to take your laptop and go back to the office. Before it’s too late.