Remote vs. in-person work

The office does not exist to get work done.

“Offices have become a place to be social. They are no longer for doing good work so much as making good work possible, and their primary functions are facilitating collaboration and fostering camaraderie.” (Source)

Do you agree?

(I actually think collaboration IS a form of doing good work, but anyway.)

I’ve been thinking about how to best use in-person vs. remote work time this coming academic year. Remote work is obviously the best choice for individual tasks like writing, grading, and deep thinking — being around other people when we’re doing these types of tasks is distracting and prone to interruption. The question becomes what format we use when we are meeting with others, and there is essentially a tradeoff between flexibility (remote) and engagement (in-person).

Remote work is overall easier because there is no commute to and from work, no transition time needed between meetings. Remote work gives us better work/life balance by giving us more opportunities to take care of personal tasks during the day, freeing up our evenings for quality time with loved ones or pursuit of personal hobbies. However, the downside of remote work is that talking to others remotely never feels “real.” We are wired for social connection. And, larger remote meetings can be disengaging since there are fewer social cues prompting us to be present.

So. I believe that in-person time is best for social gatherings and larger groups in which the goal is collaboration and interaction (e.g., meetings with 4+ people). Classes (which should also be collaborative and interactive!) become boring and easy to tune out of if you are attending remotely or asynchronously, so these need to happen in-person, too.

However, for smaller meetings (1:1 conversations and small groups), I think remote meetings work just fine for this in the balance between flexibility and engagement. Even if the in-person format is slightly more engaging and “real” for these conversations, I think we don’t lose a ton by choosing this option because there is less passivity and less of a chance of becoming bored/distracted if you are only talking to one other person and the spotlight is on you.

If you have the flexibility to choose to work on a hybrid schedule, how have you been prioritizing what happens where?

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