Telework exacerbates social relations, an innovation at half-mast?

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Telework brings the need for social relations to employees more than ever. Often underestimated in companies, sociability at work actually plays a big part in the proper functioning of the organization. The home office,imposed in many countries under the Covid-19, has a direct impact on social relations in the workplace and much more. However, since March, many studies have concluded almost without moderation that home work has no adverse impact on productivity or collaboration between teams. The opportunity to ask more deeply about the meaning of“collaboration”(1). And to understand why, if all goes well, nearly 90% of workers want to be able to return to the office at least one day a week.

The loss of social relations, the price of telecommuting

Although many companies have integrated communication tools to maintain contact with teams, there is mixed feelings among employees. For example, 17% say that the possibility of maintaining social relations has dropped with the introduction of telework (1). This is worse for employees who have strong ties or find it difficult to socialize. The barrier of working from home then affects between 20 and 26% of employees. In addition, many admit to suffering from over-planning contact times. On average, 25% of them denounce the impossibility of spontaneous interactions. This figure rises to 40% for employees accustomed to working in teams.

As a result, remote work also impacts the corporate culture. This is particularly striking for new recruits. Also, while information and communication technologies facilitate work, they cannot in any way create a sense of commitment and belonging that reinforces the corporate culture. Moreover, many feel excluded from it and suffer from social isolation. As a result, telework is not necessarily able to maintain social relations. It is therefore the morale of the troops that suffers, as well as the corporate culture that nevertheless makes the wealth of the employer brand.

social relations at work corporate culture productivity
For 12% to 18% of employees, telework makes it very difficult to connect with corporate culture and in-house news transmission. (1)

Collaboration and innovation, sociability at the heart of business productivity

Regardless of work styles and their compatibility with telecommuting,all report that the ability to meet and reflect together has dropped by an average of 11% (1). It has even declined further for teams whose work is based on collaboration. Accentuated even more by the difficulty of having spontaneous interactions, this situation actually restricts creativity. And for good reason, it is spontaneous meetings that allow the exchange of ideas and reinforce innovation in organizations. Break time, period around meetings, common spaces are all precious moments. These unplanned interactions stimulate creativity and lead to new ideas. With telework, these key times are diminished. As a result, organizations are losing the benefits.

The global movement of home work… could in fact lead to a collapse in global productivity and threaten economic growth for many years to come. […] The new ideas we are losing today could result in fewer new products in 2021 and beyond, reducing long-term growth.

Nicholas Bloom, Stanford economist (2)

Add to this an often not optimal work environment at home: children, no office, poor internet connection… and telecommuting is rapidly losing many of its appeals.

Sources

  1. “The impact of working from home on collaboration,” WeWork, November 2020
  2. The productivity pitfalls of working from home in the age of COVID-19, Stanford News, article published March 30, 2020
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