Remote or In-Office: Does One Promote More Innovation Than the Other?

Last year, companies that offered limited or non-existent remote working opportunities were forced to take a sudden plunge into the at-home office space. Amazon office supplies were flying off the warehouse shelves faster than they could be restocked and Zoom stock surged 425 percent. All of this, of course, was out of safety and necessity. However, major companies such as Microsoft and Twitter have decided staff can continue to work from home indefinitely. 

In a recent article, The New York Times asked if chance meetings at the office boost innovation? Even going as far to suggest that the office stifles innovation. We have touched on the impact of open offices on innovation before, and it appears to be time to reflect on the debate of remote versus in-office work. 

Remote or In-Office, that is the Question 

Remote WorkRemote work certainly has its fair share of benefits. Stepping outside of your office space is a wonderful way to gain a new perspective or to refresh yourself after a long work week. It only makes sense that inspiration or creativity can be boosted with new sights, sounds, and smells. However, working entirely remotely could impose on innovative efforts. 

Innovation requires collaboration, and sometimes, the most productive and inspired collaborative moments happen while passing by a coworker. These in-person spontaneous moments enable legitimate actions to be taken. When we are lucky, enthusiastic white board sessions turn into a conversation over lunch which turns into an email chain requesting funding for a new project. 

At Nottingham Spirk, we are certainly not opposed to remote work. In fact, we offer our associates the flexibility to work from home when needed, with the understanding that our successful approach heavily relies on the members of our team being physically present. Vertical Innovation™ requires all our departments working together in our 60,000-square-foot Innovation Center. Who wouldn’t want to step foot into our breathtaking facility five days a week? Remote communication is great for planning and brainstorming, but eventually innovation steps beyond ideas and concepts. In our business, we need to have equipment and physical space to build prototypes in order to prove feasibility.

Of course, there is the importance of genuine human connection. There are likely countless professionals in the world that started a new job or joined a new team during or just before the pandemic forced many of us to a remote environment. If you are that person, do you really know much about the people you work with? Can you really be invested in an organization and mission that has had the same amount of personal interaction with you as an online helpdesk? 

Lastly, there is the impact remote work has on leaderships ability to engage with and energize their teams. Managers, directors, and other leaders play a vital role in empowering employees to continuously strive and become intrapreneurs. Without the ability to interact with members of their team on a regular basis, this task becomes increasingly difficult. This not only impacts performance, but it can also be devastating to a culture of innovation. 

Our answer, we all need balance and flexibility. Choosing extremes is rarely the answer to any issue. Through our 50 years in business, we have placed a priority on flexibility and building trust with our team. Giving our team members the benefit of the doubt, allows us to work in complete collaboration in order to solve the challenges found in breakthrough innovation efforts. Companies should consider allowing their employees the opportunity to work from different spaces when needed, while understanding the importance of in-person collaboration. For companies choosing to send their work force completely remote, only time will tell. 

Topics: Business Culture, business innovation, remote working, office space

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