Lunch is, IMHO, the biggest loss when going full remote. It’s also somewhat of a magic bullet for fixing individual communication breakdowns. As a manager, when you see two people failing to coordinate, especially across teams, just have them eat a few lunches together. Offering to have the company pay is usually enough to make it happen. For a few tens of dollars, you establish a relationship with very low communication friction. It’s ridiculously good value for the company.
Ultimately, it was a great team building experience and I feel much closer to my team because of it. We're much freer in our conversations and thoughts even now than we are with some of the newer members of the team that haven't had this experience (ie. COVID-19).
Hopefully, we'll get back to quarterly on-sites soon so I can bond with my team again. And since we downsized the physical office location, I'm petitioning to meet somewhere cool - like at the beach, or a ski trip. Might as well have some fun too.
In a big company, you increase the bottom line by millions by profiling a 10 yo application for a few days, the exact opposite of innovation (studying someone else's old crap).
So dream and pursue, but when you want to build, expect to grind a bit.
So many innovations don’t get done for lack of authority to spend $20 on some Lambda functions or the unwillingness of departments to own small things or a need to manage future expectations (I.e we can’t improve this too much as we can’t match that later). Encountered all three.
Can you elaborate on this (to the extent you can publicly say)? I'm curious in what circumstances are companies opting to forgo innovations.
A more concrete example of this was where a friend of mine built a system to automate a report and did something in record time.
He didn’t share it and sat on the report for a few days as he wasn’t that proficient with SQL at the time so didn’t want to give the impression that things could be done that quickly and make that the expected norm.
So the company itself would have liked the innovation. The employees were concerned about the new problematic expectations it might create.
On the flip side, people used to talk about how people without spacious houses were disadvantaged by zoom because they didn't have dedicated home office space. These comments were typically paired with observations that minorities were disproportionally affected in this way.
This is exactly it; this whole near-mystical thinking about "hallway conversations" isn't encouraging serendipitous innovation, it's encouraging the political gamesmanship that businesses have been accustomed to.
I think that we will look back at the billions/trillions spent on office space in the world's most expensive cities as one of the biggest misallocations of capital in history.
How does remote work avoid insider groups, or people not being listened to, or meetings you aren't invited to?
It feels a lot to me like the “Old Boys’ Clubs” are stronger remote, not weaker, because of this. They don’t have to hide biases when remote, it’s hidden by default.
Before there was a lot of tribal knowledge, and side conversations but now the level of transparency has increased dramatically.
What was the alternative?
I would have to push back in that, in my experience, those just turn into private off-the-record chat groups among the in-group - and that this is something of an innate part of the human tribalism that cannot and will not be suppressed.
Status symbols _are_ an efficient allocation of capital, for a select few.
Would these sorts of agglomerative effects still occur in cities, if remote work is the norm and people don't have to be so concentrated? Or might these effects be amplified at the national level, because people can communicate more freely? I'm interested to see how this plays out over the next years.
And I really take issue with the racial angle that feels like it is basically part of every single NYT article these days. A lot of the issues reported here feel valid, but just zooming back out (maybe pun intended?) for a second, this reporter seems to be arguing that actual face-to-face interactions are so fraught with racism that minorities need to be "protected" by remote work to be on equal footing. If that is the case then we should address the root cause, not put everyone in their home office "safe space".
And to clarify, I'm not even commenting on the pros/cons of in-person interactions. I'm just commenting on yet another media piece that cherry picks some research and quotes to make their own opinion sound like it has more backing than it actually does.
They want all their middle income job readers to feel comforted by the arguments made and studies cited. It's a shitty transition to go back to an office. I'm sure a lot of workplaces are going to abuse that notion and provide very bad workspaces. But you generalize on scale for such topics only when you know your audience is absolutely not discerning.
The amount of articles about living in tiny apartments (not to say pods), eating bugs and renting as opposed to owning is just disturbing. The way they all happen at the same time and seem to answer issues raised by other articles by other publications is just scary.
I guess it isn't, which is why I didn't say that.
I always suspected tech people live in an extremely privileged bubble but holy cow did this last year really open my eyes to how detached they are.
However, the lifestyle of the $400k/yr worker is probably closer in most important aspects to that of the VC than the janitor. Both drive expensive cars, live in expensive houses, and can set up their kids for success. They don't worry about the cost of food (even organic/local/etc.) or worry much about health care.
Put another way, there are probably some $40k/yr janitors who would give their left arms to be making $400k/yr. But I doubt there are any $400k/yr tech workers who would give their left arm to be making $4m/yr.
I'm a software dev, I don't make 6 figures. I'd probably give my left arm to make $4m/year, I could afford a robot arm with that I'm sure.
$4m/year means I could retire before I'm 40 and live the rest of my life with the lifestyle I have now with comfort. Even missing an arm that sounds way better than toiling in software for another 25-30 years.
I would be able to retire after 1 year, $4M is enough to just stick in an index fund and live the rest of your life on 4% a year, unless you live in a very high COL area.
Sounds like it's time to switch company or location!
Don't be silly. Well earning tech workers in SV make it into the top 15% (at the lower end its difficult to purchase a home where they work). Top 1% would be >$500k/a for a household, which is exceptionally rare for a techie. Not everyone is a rock-star developer working for Uber.
Now, for the world, you´ve got to make $58,000 USD yearly to be in the 1%
If the upper crust high income tech dudes are priced out of housing in their own city... imagine what it must be like to not be a SV tech worker living in those cities?
You're comparing individuals to households. You're right that not many tech workers make $500k/yr, but you're comparing that individual salary against the top 1% of household incomes.
Plenty of tech workers make $250k/yr and are married to people who make similar wages in tech/law/medicine/etc. That's not to say that most tech workers live super comfortable lives, especially in costly areas like SF/SV. But it's not appropriate to look at the salary of single workers and compare it to household income statistics.
Would like to see the actual numbers of that. It certainly feels right, that high earners would self-select for high earning partners, but wondering what the reality is. It also feels like there are more single tech workers than married couples.
If I'm giving up my one non-fungible resource, my time, it had better come with protections beyond the smile of the manager who insists they've got my back when they're really looking for the right place to stick the knife; if you haven't been burned by that one, that too is a kind of, as you put it, extreme privilege.
While there might be a "war" between people that want to continue WFH and people wanting to return for an office, portraying it as "management vs labor" is unfair to many, many people who are part of the conversation.
Further, there is no point delving into that entire argument when you have just made up this strawman and inserted it into a conversation about workplace attendance requirements. You assume that broader context applies directly to this problem. It does not. The person who wants you back in office, in many cases, is your immediate manager. Is he also "management" when he has is only one degree closer to the CEO on a (generally) 6-7 step ladder? Or did you just transpose workplace hierarchy from the days of factory work and just make a go with it because you cannot be bothered to tax your brain to see how it is entirely different? I'd wager it's the latter.
(FWIW, I'm a fan of fully remote companies; this article just doesn't pass as anything but opinion.)
I don’t care what anybody says, zoom and slack are not even remotely close to face to face interactions. Sure it may not always seem that way to a developer who just wants to write code and not care about anything else, but there are lots of important roles besides developer in any tech company worth its weight. Not many of those roles are very amenable to working from home full time. Even developers working on a team, I’d argue, can't contribute 100% working purely from home. Good developers do way more than just write code. They mentor, help shape the product with UX and business people, etc. All that requires face time.
If devs want to work remote, I highly recommend becoming a contractor / consultant. Remote and contract work go together like peas and carrots. You get fed largely spec’d work, don’t really need to care about office politics, etc… There are plenty of cons… you also become your own collection agency cause dudes can take months paying you. But if remote is what you want, contracting is the best.
Anyway, this became kind of a ramble.
Remote skills are the new “computer skills.” If your org sucks, yeah, remote isn’t going to work. That’s not an issue with a remote operating model, it’s because your org sucks to begin with (whether that’s due to ineffective line managers, failure of executive leadership to cultivate the appropriate culture, what have you). If your org sucks, I recommend voting with your feet.
Remote really requires a specific type of person, and a curated environment. Having a "place' separated just for work is a huge boon, and many people used to going into an office just don't have that. I think that is ultimately why orgs built around remote work perfectly fine - the people working there are already in the habit of creating their work/home separation, used to making their own meals, used to keeping their own desk clean (Without outside social pressure to do so.)
Not all companies are gonna be remote only. If you want fully remote, go find a place that is fully remote. They have existed for quite some time.
Personally I think we are gonna rapidly revert right back to the mean, which is what life was like back in 2019. The idea that this last year is somehow gonna usher in a new age of remote work is… wishful thinking. Tech companies invest a ton onto their office experience. There is a reason for that.
> Which brings us to the ban on remote working. Mayer took over as CEO at Yahoo! in July 2012, so calling everyone into the office in February wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction. The memo, authored by Jackie Reses, says, ‘Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.’ In other words, this is the old water cooler myth rearing it’s ugly head again.
> It wasn’t just regular remote workers who got asked to stay in the office. The email also targeted those who stayed at home when needed, ‘for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration.’ For whatever reason, Mayer had decided that she wanted her staff in the offices at all times.
With regards to reverting back to the mean, I wish you the best if you’re trying to attract talent. They have options now.
And when she had a baby, she had Yahoo build a nursery for herself in the office, to give an extra Fuck You to all her employees. Mayer was a Machiavellian corporate climber from her first job out of college as Larry Page's Girlfriend at Google and getting installed as a senior exec before doing any substantial work of any kind.
It seems extra hostile and punitive because they didn’t necessarily want people to actually “come back”
Well, yeah. If you can't bothered to be in the same place as the people you want to communicate to, you're signaling that having their time and attention isn't important to you.
As Aaron Burr in "Hamilton" so put it, you have to be in the room where it happens.
As an introvert, I flip that around. If I have to engage in social games to improve things, I am instead just not going to bother and will confine my ideas to my conversations with co-workers laughing at inefficiencies and failures.
This may be an uncharitable reading of what you said, but you're implying that introverts are special fragile people who can't be bothered to share their brilliant ideas.
If someone comes up with an idea, and they think it's a good idea, it's their responsibility to advocate for it. They're already that idea's #1 fan. They're uniquely motivated to get it out in the world. How can they get others to take them seriously when they can't even take the initiative to share it themselves?
Sure, maybe some people are true solitary geniuses. But that's a waste of genius if they can't effectively communicate their thoughts with other humans.
Ed: incidentally, suggestion boxes (mentioned nearby in the thread) are also probably not helpful. Absent strong evidence to the contrary, I assume those are ignored and don't bother.
Depending on your approach, you'll get differing amounts of information from different people. A more charitable reading of the post you replied to might be: You shouldn't be content getting information only from those who like to talk and volunteer information.
You have to be effective in managing people. Maybe some people like to socialize an idea in their in group before they find someone to champion it. Maybe others like to write up their thoughts and share the doc on chat. Maybe others like to whiteboard it out after talking to someone at the bar.
But all of them actively push change.
That being said, developers are in a very unique position because they are the ones who actually build the product. If you can’t sell your devs on an idea, it ain’t getting built.
The process of getting to saying what your idea is? Frequently, especially if it is very informal or reliant on social cred to get into the room.
I mean the agile manifesto is all about human interaction. People over process. Face to face conversation over piles of stale documents.
Are we done with agile? Is it time to embrace the waterfall?
Alternatives to hallway conversations in increasing depth:
* slack message
* Business plan
Plus there’s always zoom or the phone if you really want to shoot the shit.
Slack is good for easy questions where you already know how to convert your thoughts into words. If you don’t because your thoughts are currently encoded visually… slack (or any online medium) doesn’t work. In the real world I would almost always abandon the slack conversation and go visit the person / people.
Email is crap for communication, at least for my working style.
The rest are okay when you’ve got a lot of clarity already but not so hot when you are very early in the ideation phases.
All of your substitutes are significantly lower bandwidth, much more latent mediums.
You can’t replace face time with online. You just can’t.
I’ve long held that the secret to FAANG company success wasn’t their technical prowess or even their products. Is that they have superior software development processes. Their secret sauce is their process. Companies with shitty offices, crappy untrusting management, and heavyweight processes get beat by those with processes similar to FB or Google.
You’ll note that all the companies in FAANG invest a shit ton into their office experiences… well except Amazon.
Give it a year and life will look much as it did back in 2019.
For instance, I would never work in an office again and because there is a developer shortage, that requirement hasn’t impacted my market rate, which is on par for the valley.
Having worked at one of the FAANGs I would definitely not say they have a superior development process. Waaaaay too much middle management baggage and drag. They are successful due to first mover advantages, network effects, regulatory capture and in some cases a literal monopoly.
Zero of the FAANG companies had a first mover advantage.
* Facebook replaced MySpace within the course of like a year. Today TikTok and other things threaten them.
* Apple... well... it was for a long time a huge underdog.
* Amazon... born in the dot com era. At the time lots of people thought the company was gonna implode any day. It took like a decade before they even remotely generated something other than a loss.
* Netflix... was DVD's, competed against brick & mortor and companies like Kozmo. Today it competes with media companies offering their own streaming service.
* Google... plenty of search engines came before google.
Not sure how any of these companies became successful because of regulatory capture, network effects or even literal monopolies. None of these companies could be successful in the long haul if their products sucked. Building non-sucky products involves a hell of a lot more than just developers sitting at home writing code 24/7. Success involves building successful processes that encourage innovation.
Network effects are all over the place, mainly FB and Google.
> Success involves building successful processes that encourage innovation.
For the most part, large companies “innovate” via acquisition.
The Hiptop/Sidekick and Palm Pilots were already popular long before the iPhone came out. They just weren't nearly as good and the companies couldn't overcome the carriers' poor business plans.
If you can’t take a step back and make a paragraph, and instead attempt to just bombard others with your thought-stream and let them sort it out, then maybe YOU are the problem - face-to-face or not.
Untrue. My DMs are open.
If introverts aren't voicing their ideas, what are we supposed to do, read minds?
For example, something where folks ask "please post your papers and ideas to this shared document repository where they can each then be read by the team at whatever pace is required."
A collection of folks read the documents, write about which ideas they like, then make a decision based on the contents raised in said papers, all over text mediums.
Something like that is an alternative to a world where whoever speaks loudly fastest, and to the right people, has their idea taken seriously.
Hallway conversations are temporal noise, at best.
But, say you have some half-baked idea and want to talk it out with a coworker next to you. You both roll over to the whiteboard in your pod and start scribbling, both of you exchanging high-bandwidth information via utterances, gestures, and facial expressions with millisecond roundtrips. Third teammate overhears and rolls over, contributing further. This scenario IME used to happen a lot, created a lot of value, and is hard to replicate with a scheduled meeting or documents because the communication roundtrips and bandwidths are atrocious.
Half the time I don’t need to ask for help because in the comfort and focus of my home office I can figure out much more difficult problems then I could when a sales dude was closing a deal next to my desk, or having half the devs at my table coughing and sick.
Documents are useful when the volume of details is too much to remember in a conversation, and to communicate with wider audiences, but for communicating key points in a small group, conversation is vastly more efficient.
In person can truly make a difference. You're all subject to the same distractions, can keep each other on task, and pound through collective decisions in a way even a video chat can never facilitate well.
A hallway conversation is a random happenstance between a couple of people. Any decisions made are going to have to be communicated more broadly as a next step anyway, which will require written communication.
It’s pretty hard to read and comment on HN when you’re in the office. Especially an open office where everyone can see your screen.
I feel all these "solutions" just tell the other type of 'verts' to suck it up and adapt to the other style.
Think Lex Friedman in a one-on-one vs. Joe Rogan with 2 guests at the same time.
Here's the thing: Data on serendipitous meetings is going to exist primarily in the form of anecdotes! Fundamentally.
And I really take issue with the racial angle that feels like it is basically part of every single NYT article these days. A lot of the issues reported here feel valid, but just zooming back out (maybe pun intended?) for a second, this reporter seems to be arguing that actual face-to-face interactions are so fraught with racism that minorities need to be "protected" by remote work
Historically, here's how it has worked throughout history: To break into a field as a member of an under-represented identity group in that field, you had to be "So good, they can't ignore you." In fact, there are many areas of human endeavor where "So good, they can't ignore you," is just the regular price of entry. It is, in fact, the standard price of entry for those entities known as "startups."
Is this, in an absolute sense, fair? No. There are always going to be proxies to actual merit used in evaluation. That's just the reality of how non-omniscient beings work. We can only strive to make things as fair and accurate as we can. That certainly does not mean seeing that the lever is thrown one way, then wrenching the lever the other way. The lever needs to be changed from being a dumb lever and hooked up to meaningful data.
 They just removed it. Here's what they had previously: https://archive.is/NR0Zj
> The term picnic is often associated with lynchings of Black people in the United States, during which white spectators were said to have watched while eating, referring to them as picnics or other terms involving racial slurs against Black people.
The false etymology persists despite the Oxford English Dictionary definition: "A method or procedure derived entirely from practice or experience, without any basis in scientific knowledge; a roughly practical method." The OED dates the phrase's first reference to 1692.
In the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, "rule of thumb" is additionally defined as a method by which brewers once tested the temperature of a batch of beer: They dipped a thumb in the brew.
I don't even click on NYT articles any more (and no, I didn't read this article either, just curious about the comment section).
Maybe racial issues are that present? Should the NYT hide them or report them?
Many believe (without putting too fine a point on who) racism has always been that present, but was ignored by those who could ignore it, who it didn't affect, or who didn't care or wanted to perpetuate it. In part, that was because the media, from news to entertainment, could ignore it and didn't want to annoy its white consumers. That perpetuated ignorance - white people rarely talk to black people, especially about racism; they rarely see it in their media; and therefore they didn't know how bad the problem was. Then, when it's reported, white people think it must be exaggerated, because it doesn't match their prior mental model - a viscous circle.
That's my experience: I had no idea how omnipresent race issues were until some experiences in my life (unrelated to mass media) changed that. Then I realized it was being covered up, with varying degrees of intention and ignorance.
Note also that it's a common response to issues of racism: Do nothing about the racism and attack the messenger. That's arguably the biggest way it's perpetuated. So let's not focus on reporting on racism; what do we do about the much larger issue of racism itself? The former seems discussed on HN much more commonly than the latter.
Yes. There are smart people with compelling anecdotes on both sides of the debate.
1. Monitoring/counting "spontaneous interactions" is extremely difficult.
2. Simple "counting" of spontaneous interactions seems like exactly the wrong approach, because one would probably expect that 99% of interactions would be mundane but then 1% would be important.
3. How do you define "innovation"?
4. One might suspect that the benefits of in-person interaction would show up on longer timescales rather than shorter timescales. For example, this article is long on pointing out that how in-person interactions can be detrimental to minorities and women, but my opinion (not fact, just opinion) is that basically all of my closest business connections were formed in person. Now that I'm late in my career remote vs. in-person is not as critical to me because I have a strong network, but right out of college it was critical, and my career would have suffered greatly had I not forged those relationships early. I got every single one of my jobs after my first through my network that started in my first job (not necessarily directly, but often times through the "hey, I heard from someone they are looking for XYZ, and I heard you might be looking" channel).
Sounds a lot like masks.
If you care to open your eyes the data is easily locatable from reputable sources online. One overview article: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02801-8
What I'd rather expect is less flashy but at least as useful. "Hey, it sounds like Mary in customer support is taking off next week. That might be a bad time to deploy the new mods." "Wait, you're working on that code? Maybe it'll also fix the thing I'm working on. I'll go work on something else until you finish it."
These are tiny things. The benefits are probably too small to measure, but it doesn't mean they don't exist. It would be nice if they resulted in Big Improvements For Free, but that seems unlikely. That sounds more like a way of trying to make up a visible model of something that they feel but can't demonstrate.
I have no idea if such things are worth it or not. I suspect it has a ton of variables (personalities, project type, luck) and you couldn't do a good controlled experiment even if you had a mechanism for measuring it. So different companies are going to constitute a natural experiment, and maybe in a decade or two we'll have some intuition for what worked.
Paraphrased from Hackers, I think.
Here’s a source I could find from a study in 2017 https://news.mit.edu/2017/proximity-boosts-collaboration-mit...
I was hoping this article would delve into why (if) this story is not true, but it's too light.
It seems pretty clear that at least some things become more efficient some of the time when everyone is in the same place.
The question of if that's a total net gain to the enterprise or not is probably pretty dependent on the actual task at hand (fewer efficiency gains for software companies, more for symphonies, etc) but that seems a better description of what's going on than a generic sense of "innovation".
If, as is the case at most places I've worked, this hierarchy is dominated by upper middle class white men, this may have the effect of severely limiting the company's ability to make good use of the creativity of a large portion of its staff.
I haven't worked anywhere that does this, but I strongly suspect that a company with a more organized approach to incubating ideas would be able to do so more successfully. It would put the company in a better position to mitigate this and many other ways that good ideas slip through the cracks.
Note that what I was suggesting was not anything like, "Ignore white dudes and only talk to everyone else." I was saying, "A less informal system may be less impenetrable to people from other social backgrounds." Presumably, in such a situation, white men would still tend to be a plurality of voices, because that's just how the workforce demographics work out in the US. But, even given that, why wouldn't you want to make sure you're also doing a good job of giving full voice to folks who come from the other 2/3 of the population? Even if we frame it in purely mercenary terms, wantonly underutilizing employees' talents is probably bad for business. And relying on invisible, socialization-based mechanisms tends to have a poor track record in that department.
I would imagine the is less true in small companies, some because of the size, but also because of the homogeneity of focus - you have to have a different environment, a different work biome for the output to diverge enough to take advantage of this.
Actually, this reminds of the network effects section of 'Where good things come from' (Steven Johnson), which actually points out there is a right amount of 'edge' density - too little and you don't see outside your local group enough for ideas to flow; too much and ideas flow but don't tend to die before they can reach critical mass.
Whereas on zoom, it's rare I go a meeting without side-channel conversations popping up just as a meeting ends or even while it's going on. e.g. someone mentions a new requirement in passing, and within a few seconds there's a group dm from the other 2 devs on the project going "wtf did either of you know about <requirement>".
meeting right after meeting, but about real stuff.
This externalizes costs for basic infrastructure. If some workers want that... that's fine, but I don't.
For each of the observed kinds of disturbance, you'd look for an easy, mechanical way to protect your workers. Given a reasonably free hand, you would investigate the advantages of closed space vs opens space. This would allow you to make a sensible trade-off of cost against privacy and quiet. Finally, you would take int account people's social needs and provide some areas where a conversation could take place without disturbing others.
It should come as no surprise to you that the people who do control space and services for your company (particularly if it is a large company) don't spend much time thinking about any of the concerns listed above."
Peopleware, DeMarco and Lister, First Published in 1987
At this point I've worked as a programmer in many open office configurations, and this past year has been somewhat of a revelation in my ability to focus and think through things. With each passing month the status quo of pre-2020 has become more absurd to me: hiring a team of highly paid software engineers to do focused thinking and plopping them in the middle of big room with multiple conversations, phone calls, people moving around, only for all of them to wear headphones and communicate with each other via Slack.
One would have expected some improvement in that area but sometimes it feels to me like the opposite is true.
The book advocates for treating people as adults. Trusting them to do their work. Creating and environment and process for doing that work.
And it definitely does not defend bullpen working environments.
Fortunately, they didn't enter the offices, if they did, we'd have thrown them out, but they did put up gigantic signs in the hallways with slogans like "together we achieve more" and "coworking can be contagious". First we laughed in disgust, then we simply became banner blind. Then covid hit.
Maybe our culture is bad, too oral, and maybe some people in other corps manage it fine and I'm missing something...
Beneath this simple statement is a career's worth of questions worth investigating. Oral and written communication are just two modes of conveying information and sharing ideas. Edward Tufte, for example, has made his career in exploring other modes, neatly summed up in the title of his most famous work, "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information".
Engaging the visual/spatial functions of the brain, even if you can't draw more than wobbly trapezoids and shaky, uneven lines, can enrich thinking in ways I don't think we fully understand.
I'm not sure what all the barriers are to an inexpensive shared whiteboarding tool that's as natural and effortless as a dry-erase pen on a whiteboard. Everything we have now feels unnatural without a lot of practice, is far too clunky to be worth the effort, and/or is too expensive and flakey.
I think part of it is that they begin with a draw/paint tool, rather than cutting it down to the extreme simplicity of whiteboard. Would whiteboarding be as popular and useful if you had to pick up a "draw a square" tool, then switch to "draw a line" tool? Can we make the pad/stylus for "draw lines" have better haptics and a more natural hand/eye connection?
I don't think it's haptics, I think it's the spacial layout and the social interaction around the board - I can see if you follow along as I draw or talk, I can see where you are looking, I can point out something already drawn, you can point something I have already drawn, you can draw something on top of my drawing, we can easily take turns without trampling each other. I can also get back to it the next day and point something out during a follow-up discussion; the board being in the exact physical location helps jog the memory.
There is also something about the large space. Drawing in OneNote on the iPad I technically get more space, but I still feel cramped. Next to a large whiteboard I feel like there is no limit to it, and it opens up my mind. Maybe it's just being close to a large surface I can't see the edges so I'm not thinking about them. If this theory is right then a relatively cheap 21" designer drawing tablet might prove to be a superior whiteboard compared to the 10" iPad.
I think we share a lot of the same thoughts. We actually don't want to replace the whiteboard (or any other analog writing surface) at all, just make it easier for it to "communicate" with digital tools. Please try it out and share feedback.
I am pretty sure at this point employee retention is well understood. The conclusion of the market is that it doesn’t matter.
On a serious note, chance meetings are just one way that innovation happens. Not all innovations are created equally
Office is across campus? Office is in the building next door? Office is in the same building, different floor? Office is in the same hallway, but way at the end? Office is right beside? All of these correlate with number of journal articles co-authored!
And my daily appreciation of bad coffee. Is that a hint of rust and burnt beans I’m tasting?
Those are the only reasons to go into the office.
It's not chance meetings that brings innovation, it's purpose driven meetings (often had in stressful circumstances), which can happen very well on zoom.
The real trade-off for companies is retention - productivity. People will have less distractions and be more productive when working remote from a quiet environment (unless you fill their schedule with unnecessary meetings because you don't trust them). The extra productivity comes at the expense of making friends and building relationships at work, which makes it easier for employees to just dump the company when you don't like it anymore.
All these issues are separate and - in my experience - very rarely tied together. You can be a remote first, no meeting company and have deep trust issues (eg: requiring very precise time sheets). Or have an absolute trust in your employees and have communications issues which leads to too many meetings being needed.
Just saying that "you require onsite presence because you don't trust me", or "too many meetings are required because you don't trust your employees" is detrimental to the debate. You corner the whole discussion around trust, which is most cases is not the actual problem, and the core issues are then not addressed.
The problem is that the "I don't feel trusted" might be hiding the actual true underlying issue. What if your manager does trust you, why would he need you in the office ? Is it because you don't have proper communication channels ? Is it because he can't properly follow up what's going on ? Is it because he has to spend more time sharing the common vision with you and other employees ? Is it because he can't understand the issues you face anymore ?
All these question are not related to him not trusting you in any way and they are very reasonable concerns. Identifying and addressing those will bring you one step closer to a fruitful collaboration.
But if you stop the conversation at : "You want me to come back to the office, but I feel more productive at home so it means you don't trust me so I quit", is exactly the problem. It's super hard to start a reasonable conversation if the premise is "you don't trust me".
Some managers just want to power trip by walking around the office to see who is in their chair. That’s not how we do things anymore.
I once had a chance meeting in an office that boosted innovation, when I overheard a colleague doing a regular task in a way that could be done more efficiently, and communicated this to them. I'm sure of it, as it actually happened, and I was there.
I have now, using the awesome power of science, falsified this headline.
There is no shortage of talented, capable people in organizations, who could dream up and lead the next profitable line of the business. The challenge is empowering and encouraging those people in organizations with top-down structures and constraining, predefined success metrics for employees’ managers. It follows that making more ideas (by chance meetings or what have you) is not going to help if the bottleneck is the organization’s enthusiasm to support the ideas that happen.
Perhaps randomly bumping into an executive is the traditional avenue for an individual contributor to get their ideas to the decision maker with the ability to help them? I’d argue that a direct instant message to that executive is much more efficient.
Only in a small company. In a large company everyone sending just one idea a year means the CEO never has time to do anything other than read those messages. In large companies filters are required to ensure that work the CEO can get work done.
The one thing I can’t factor out is apathy, as every time next to nothing was done with the suggestions and perhaps lack of prior success dissuaded people from trying again.
Note the the other reply gave interesting data that I didn't factor into this. You can expanding it to assume that all ideas need to be given a good reply or the people will give up on the idea.
There are writers rooms and painters workshops where workers can collaborate on the same project at the same time, but just because you run into Linda from accounting or Tom from marketing will probably not help your creativity or give you unique insights about the problems you are grappling with. A walk in the park is more likely to help.
For a meaningful comparison you would need environments in which significant innovations are being made. Then you can tell where it's going better.
Innovation is boosted by creatively thinking development teams who are able to efficiently think, design, develop, and deliver product which solves challenges for customers who in turn can use the newly innovated product to increase profits.
My current fully remote team of the past year is leaps and bounds more collaborative and innovative than any of the in-person teams I've worked with in office environments for most of my 16 year career.
IMO, it's deeply backwards thinking by executives who are scared the world is changing.
I always assumed it was middle managers who are worried they can't justify their jobs if they aren't standing over someone's shoulder.
Oh god. Here we go again. The academic "innovation"-measurers have reached a "conclusion."
Is "innovation" found on a napkin, a table, or a clock?
Does it need coffee?
How many people are required for "innovation?"
If you whisper too loudly, does "innovation" evaporate?
Does "innovation" go on vacation?
Can you learn "innovation" in an MBA program classroom? Answer: Fuck off.
Does pointing at the sky as the innovators do (because that must be their secret to "innovation") make you also more "innovative?" (stolen idea from a late billionaire no one's ever heard of)
Can you buy "innovation?"
Any discussions of whether offices are "good" or "bad" inevitably reminds me of the Crimson Permanent Assurance. Office buildings do need more pirates and defensible offensive batteries.
(disclaimer: I don't want to go back into the office)
My favorite bit:
> It is often said that doctors are interfering monsters obsessed with disease and power, who will not be satisfied until they control every aspect of our lives (Journal of Social Science, pick a volume). [...] The widespread use of the parachute may just be another example of doctors' obsession with disease prevention and their misplaced belief in unproved technology to provide effective protection against occasional adverse events.
The follow up, where someone actually did conduct a randomized controlled trial where people jumped out of airplanes without a parachute, is similarly amusing:
> Conclusions: Parachute use did not reduce death or major traumatic injury when jumping from aircraft in the first randomized evaluation of this intervention. However, the trial was only able to enroll participants on small stationary aircraft on the ground, suggesting cautious extrapolation to high altitude jumps. When beliefs regarding the effectiveness of an intervention exist in the community, randomized trials might selectively enroll individuals with a lower perceived likelihood of benefit, thus diminishing the applicability of the results to clinical practice.
Not sure this is the study you wanted to link to.