Is teleworking a brake on innovation?

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Is teleworking likely to slow down business innovation? This is the question posed by MIT researchers as part of a study. The answer is clearly yes if we are to believe their conclusions. At least, when it comes to the big tech companies in Silicon Valley.

Telework, an asset for employee productivity?

The authors are particularly interested in unexpected encounters between two Tech workers. They cite the example of two employees from different companies who bump into each other by chance on the way to get a coffee or on the street. It appears precisely that these small moments of sociability, which seem insignificant in appearance, very often give rise to extremely important conversations which lead to knowledge transfers.

Scientists have precisely quantified the impact of these social interactions using geolocation data from around 50 million handsets collected by the company Safegraph in the Silicon Valley region between 2016 and 2017. The verdict is clear: there is a correlation between the publication of patents and the level of chance encounters between Tech workers.

This observation has a concrete consequence. If working from home becomes the norm, these exchanges are likely to become scarce, and innovation could therefore decline within the companies concerned.

As part of this study, the researchers even assessed the risks involved. According to their calculations, eliminating a quarter of face-to-face discussions in Silicon Valley would reduce patent publication by 8%. Similarly, if half of the study sample worked from home, publications would decrease by 12%.

And the authors conclude: If workers take advantage of greater flexibility to relocate to more remote, cheaper, or more scenic locations, face-to-face meetings will likely decline further. But if permanent homeworkers make conscious efforts to meet more people, these exchanges could continue. »

Finally, it is interesting to note that telework can also have advantages for companies. In a report released this year, the National Productivity Council (NPC) expressed a positive opinion on remote working.

The organization explains as follows: Unlike many previous crises which led to a slowdown in trend productivity, the acceleration in the use of teleworking linked to the health crisis could ultimately lead to a lasting gain in productivity. “.

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