The future working model is a hot topic. Is it fully flex, partially flex or no flex? I think that there is a lot to be assessed as we move from the current restrictions into a slightly more relaxed scenario. I have made no secret of my personal view on the value of spending more time together in an office environment when we are able to and in a safe way. But this article articulated some really interesting points which I endorse enthusiastically.
The commentary around social capital (never heard of this before reading the article) is in my experience over 40 years "at work" totally correct. WFH has created more silos and whilst we may all be in more meetings the truth is we are more isolated with less overall connectivity to the wider business. My son relates to this 100%, he works in the City of London for a large financial services organisation and has been at home for a year. A key part of his pre-pandemic working week was socialising with colleagues (as we all do) but what he has sorely missed is the ability to network and engage with senior managers from other departments and people who work in other teams. This has both undermined his work enjoyment but also his career planning.
As the debate continues intangibles like social capital need to be truly assessed from a corporate and personal perspective. Many organisations, my own included have achieved a great deal working from home but finding the right model for the future needs to be carefully, thoughtfully and comprehensively reviewed.
One of the biggest and most worrisome changes we saw across these studies was the significant impact that a year of full-time remote work had on organizational connections — the fundamental basis of social capital. People consistently report feeling disconnected, and in studying anonymized collaboration trends between billions of Outlook emails and Microsoft Teams meetings, we saw a clear trend: the shift to remote work shrunk people’s networks. Specifically, at the onset of the pandemic, we saw that interactions within close networks increased, while interactions with distant networks diminished. As people shifted into lockdown, they focused on connecting with the people they were used to seeing regularly, letting weaker relationships fall to the wayside. Simply put, companies became more siloed than they were pre-pandemic. And while interactions with close networks are still frequent, we’re seeing that now — one year in — even these close team interactions have started to diminish.