I understand why companies and employees might push for work from home solutions, even before Covid-19 forced the issue. There is clear research showing that employees are more productive when they have the opportunity to work remotely. But I always contended that there was a loss of institutional knowledge sharing around the lack of face to face interactions.
This article in the MIT Sloan Review refers to it as “Passive Knowledge Sharing.” I think this will be difficult for companies to overcome losing this source of innovation as the work from home trend continues.
While conversations over the water cooler have been derided forever, there is value in spontaneous interactions. Some companies have actively tried to engineer serendipitous interactions between employees into their space design specifically to create this kind of engagement.
And I’ve also thought that the most valuable part of any meeting is the 5 minutes before it starts and the 10 minutes after it ends. There is an opportunity to connect with people on a personal level and deepen relationships. That’s the time to discuss other projects and investigate resources without having to schedule a specific time for a meeting.
As we get through this current reality warp, I think there will be some wonderful strategies that develop around a hybrid solution between work from home and the new office reality. People are going to need more space within their offices to feel comfortable. And companies are going to want to offer more flexible work from home options. But a well designed strategy that allows companies to keep their employees productive while also encouraging collaboration will require real leadership and innovative thinking.