There’s plenty of research out there on the benefits of remote and flexible work. It’s been shown to lead to increased productivity, and has an undeniable benefit for work-life balance. But what does it do to everyone back at the office?
In a 2013 memo to workers explaining why the company was eliminating policies that allowed remote work, Jackie Reses, Yahoo’s head of human resources, argued that some of the “best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussion,” and that actual presence in the office encourages better collaboration and communication.
But a new study from Kevin Rockmann of George Mason and Michael Pratt of Boston College, published in Academy of Management Discoveries, supports the logic behind that decision. The researchers found that increased levels of offsite work can have a highly negative and contagious effect on the office environment.
The issue is that when fewer people work in the office, people who actually go in don’t get the social or productivity benefits they expect from being around friends, close colleagues, and managers. When no one’s around consistently, they end up joining colleagues who spend some or all of their time working elsewhere, compounding the problem.