S2E13 – Research on Remote Work (Remote Work Series – Part 2 of 3)

Show Notes

 In this second part of a three-part series of the TTL podcast, Mon-Chaio and Andy dive into what research has to say about remote working. They explore various aspects including the impact of remote work on mental health, performance, synchronous vs. asynchronous communication, and team cohesion. Highlighting a study published in Nature titled ‘Virtual Communication Curbs Creative Idea Generation’, they discuss how virtual settings can limit creative idea generation compared to in-person settings due to narrowed visual fields and cognitive focus. However, they note that virtual communication might have a small positive effect on selecting the best idea from a generated pool. The conversation also touches on the importance of high synchronicity in media for effective team convergence and conveyance, and the effects of remote work on coworker relationships and productivity.



Andy: We’re here for another episode of the TTL podcast. And today Mon Chaio and I are going to continue on what we started last week, the epic research into remote working. Last time we, we talked about various stories that we’ve had, various stories we found about remote working, and we extracted from that various themes.

And the themes that we were finding, we found that there’s, there’s a theme of mental health. We saw themes about performance and how does it impact performance for individuals, for teams, for leading and managing. Synchronous and asynchronous work and communication and group get togethers and cohesion.

How do you, how do you maintain that group cohesion? So those are the themes that we found. And we both went off and we did our normal various searches all over the place, trying to track down articles talking about these issues. And there’s one article in particular that Mon- Chaio found that I think we’re gonna use as our jumping off point.

This article is looks like it was published in Nature, and it’s called Virtual Communication Curbs Creative Idea Generation. It’s by Melanie S. Brooks and Jonathan Levev, and it was published in 2022.

Mon-Chaio: And as the title of the paper says, they were trying to investigate, is there a difference between creative idea generation between in person settings and virtual settings? There have been research that shows that there is, and so what the authors of this paper wanted to do is posit a possible mechanism for why that might be the case.

So I’m not going to talk about all the mechanisms of the studies, because we’ve tried that before in earlier episodes of our podcast and listeners gave us the feedback that they don’t really like us reading the paper and talking about the specifics and diving into the details.

We will link the paper. You can read it and if your conclusions are different than ours, we would love to have a discussion. But at a high level, what they did is they sat people down in both virtual settings as well as in person settings and had them generate creative ideas. And after the creative idea generation, they then had them pick from those creative ideas to pick the best idea.

They did this both in a laboratory setting as well as in a real world setting. They recruited companies to help them with this and employees of the companies to help judge the ideas, creativity and and whatnot. And what they found is that they were able to reproduce prior research that said creative idea generation was much better in person. And they were able to validate their hypothesis about the reason why. So the reason why is they say when you are virtual, your visual field narrows to concentrate only on the person on the screen. And previous research has demonstrated, both empirically and neurologically, that when you limit your visual field, your cognitive focus also narrows. And so therefore you generate fewer creative ideas. Now on the second part of that, after you have a bunch of creative ideas, picking the best idea out of the bunch, they found that in the lab setting it was generally neutral. There wasn’t a better or worse, depending on whether you were in person or virtual.

And when they went out in the field, they found a small positive for virtual communication in idea picking.

Andy: Interesting.

Mon-Chaio: So that’s the summary of the research.

Andy: I was looking through the paper and a thing that I thought was really interesting is a, is a difference that they found between in person and remote in how the ideas were generated. They found that if anything, “in person pairs generated progressively more disconnected ideas over time relative to virtual pairs. These results are consistent with our proposed process that virtual communication constrains thinking relative to in person pairs.”

They’re finding that the in person pairs diverged more, which I actually find kind of surprising because we also have this whole thing of groupthink.

That sometimes when people get together like I know sometimes if I’m the lead of a team or the manager, I’ll try to not speak first so that I don’t anchor people and cause them all to go down that same path. Maybe it’s even more powerful if I’m working remote.

Mon-Chaio: The way that I interpret it is there’s two forces at work here. I think there’s the corpus or universe of ideas that are generated in your mind. And then there are the set of ideas that get presented. And I think groupthink affects the latter one. So the way that I would read into this is to say, When you’re in person, you generate more ideas, but oftentimes you will filter those away because of groupthink.

And that’s where these tactics around, instead of having everyone state their idea, have everyone sit down and write their idea in a document for five minutes before sharing their ideas with the world, allows those ideas that you’ve generated in your head to make its way down on the physical media Therefore, it’s less easy for you to discard it away when somebody says something you’re like, oh, yeah, I like that idea I don’t want to say these they’re already at least on paper or maybe on a post it that you’re going to

Andy: Yeah, it’s there already. You’re not gonna back off of it. Well, hopefully you’re not going to.

Mon-Chaio: Right. I mean you can but at least it’s there reminding you and you see that that’s something maybe If it’s public in a public doc other people also see it as well. Another thing that they mentioned, and this shows up in other research that I’ll talk about as well, is that virtual pairs have difficulty in determining who should speak next.


Andy: are you talking about, Mon Chao?

Mon-Chaio: Which is probably why, because we’re a virtual podcast, we end up going on these long tangents and soliloquies. But virtual pairs they have a difficult time figuring out how to switch this turn taking aspect, which is so important to drawing, well, not just creative idea generation, but also in terms of building trust, I think is also really important.

Andy: It’s also a important thing for diversity and inclusiveness. I did read a paper I’m not going to reference it too much, but I will bring it up here that was talking about things that you can do. This was, this was a qualitative research, kind of like a, a survey in people and figuring out, okay, what kinds of issues, how have they coped.

Specifically people on with autism and ADHD and other I was going to say mental health, no, neurodivergent, yeah, neurodivergent, well, also mental health issues, but neurodivergent and mental health issues. And one of the things that they said was that, First, it was different for everyone, and it was conflicting in some cases, what each person was asking for.

But one of the things was the turn taking. That coming up with a mechanism for turn taking. And I’ve seen, I’ve seen teams do this where they use, on Zoom, you’ve got the little raise hand. I think Google Meet has it now as well. I’m sure Teams does. And I think it does help. It does help the, the virtual team do that.

And it’s a thing that you can do in person. I would caution groups to not do it constantly, because it can also reduce discussion. A lot of groups that I see doing it, it turns into point making and point scoring a lot of times, because the back and forth becomes much more difficult to actually have a discussion.

Mon-Chaio: And I think you bring up a good point because in my experience it’s exactly the same. I would say it’s pretty rare that that sort of mechanism leads to stronger discussions.

And I think anecdotally, you can see when you’re in a room with everybody, there’s a flow of conversation. This gets back into maybe the visual cues or the body language cues, that sort of a thing that you learn as humans from a very early age, how to tell when it’s your turn or not your turn to speak. Have you ever gone to a dinner party where somebody was very terrible at that?


Andy: But, I mean, speaking of the neurodivergent, that is, an aspect of that is the trouble or the inability to necessarily read some of those cues reliably. And so, that is where the turn taking can be very beneficial.

Mon-Chaio: right. And when you, when you notice that, it’s not just that, especially at the dinner party, it’s not just that you’re not getting the information that you need, because I’m hoping that your dinner parties aren’t just Socratic discussions about remote work, right? But there’s a ability to build trust and comfort level that happens when you can’t interact with somebody in that way And so when you’re in person, it’s very rarely this checkbox spreadsheet of oh who raised their hand first And is it their turn to talk?

Whereas in the virtual world, it’s almost always that in a large group setting, isn’t it?

Andy: Following on this theme and that, that idea of the difference between in person and and virtual and relationship building, because you mentioned relationship building I found a paper that was a very useful summary of a lot of research. It was published in

I’m going to guess about 2016. And they, point out that the question. One of the questions in the more interesting research really is how much, not complete remote and not complete in office, but what, what’s the trade off, what’s the change that happens as you, as you increase the amount of remoteness

Just a few quotes from it, is one is “telecommuting was not related to coworker relationship quality under low intensity telecommuting arrangements.”

So low intensity being. You’re, you’re doing it one or two times a week. “But it had a negative effect under high intensity arrangements. Thus, the frequency at which an individual telecommutes appears to make a difference with regard to the impact of telecommuting on coworker relationships.” So they’re saying that their research was showing that the more you are remote, the more impact, negative impact it has on relationships with your coworkers.

A fascinating thing in it though was they also found that the more you work remotely the more positive relationship you had with your supervisor Now, I don’t know if that was because you had less access or your supervisor had less access to you or because it was more one to one Interaction that you might have with them.

I don’t know. That’s what they found was just that you had worse relationships with your co workers and a better relationship with your supervisor.

Mon-Chaio: I think this starts to get a little bit into the mental health aspect bucket. We can jump into that or we can continue a little bit more on the asynchronous versus synchronous work stuff. What do you think?

Andy: Let’s veer back onto synchronous and asynchronous work, because I think we have a few more things there, and then we can veer back onto the maybe group cohesion mental health aspect and see, see where it takes us.

Mon-Chaio: Another way to think about synchronous and asynchronous with regard to remote work is to think about the way that people work together. And there’s this concept that researchers have as people work together that there’s conveyance and convergence. So conveyance is talking about information, bringing new information to light.

And convergence is around taking that information and making meaning of it, perhaps agreeing as a group, what the meaning is, perhaps choosing something out of that noise to find the signal in that noise, that would be convergence. Along with that, researchers have brought up this concept of media and how high the synchronicity of the media is in helping with conveyance and convergence. So what the research says is that when you are trying to perform convergence, high synchronicity in your media is very important.

Now this is things like face to face, so video conferencing for example would be some of that. We can argue whether shared documents like Google Docs are that or not. There’s some concepts that are, there’s some concepts that are not.

Andy: think if you’re editing at the same time, that’s fairly, fairly synchronous, maybe.

Mon-Chaio: The other part that they say is when you’re in the conveyance stage, then low synchronicity of media is okay.

Andy: Just rtfm.

Mon-Chaio: I wrote a post, read it, right, this is the information I’m giving you. I want to read a quote from the paper. It says, ” high synchronicity can also provide individuals with the ability to receive immediate feedback, enabling the message sender to use communication patterns such as quote unquote installments, which enable the sender to break up a message and seek the recipient’s feedback after each installment is sent, or offer trial references to test the recipient’s agreement and understanding.” So this is where I would posit that shared docs would be a low synchronicity media.

Andy: I can see that.

Mon-Chaio: It’s not something where, I mean, think about the way that you use shared docs. Rarely is that you add a comment and somebody reads it and immediately state something, right?

You’re always thinking, well, I’m adding a comment. So I’m not just going to add three lines to test my, what they use, the installment and see what it is

Andy: And you don’t, and, and you don’t then just wait. I think that that’s the key part of synchronous communication is you, you put out that installment and then you wait. It’s just like synchronous code. You send the data on the network and then you wait on your read call.

Mon-Chaio: hmm. I like it. I mean, we are tactics for tech leadership, right? You’re absolutely right, Andy. That waiting is the thing. You don’t move on to something else. You’re waiting. And the reason why you’re waiting is you would need that feedback in order to get to your next piece of code or your next point because you don’t know how that’s going to, you don’t know if that’s right or wrong.

You don’t know if that’s the right path, right? That’s why they say, they call it trial references to test the recipient’s agreement. Instead, when you’re writing comments, you’re writing, at least for me, and I’m sure everybody else, you’re writing long blocks of comments. You’re trying to lay out everything that could possibly be in your head about that one particular thing, and then you use words like, if you disagree, please let me know, or in my humble opinion, this is what I think, and long ass thing that I wrote, right? And even beyond shared docs, I would say that video face to face conferencing Because of the exact thing that we talked around around turn taking is also probably the highest synchronicity media we have available for remote work these days. Maybe VR will change that, I don’t know.

But I would say it’s still relatively low because even in video, turn taking means that this idea of installments or trial references are much more difficult than they are in real life.

Andy: This, this idea of conveyance conveyance working well asynchronously, and, what was it? Convergence?

Mon-Chaio: Convergence. Yes.

Andy: working well synchronously,

I think fits well with a paper that I found. They were looking at what’s the quality of the outcome for these agile development teams working under synchronous and asynchronous communication styles. And they, even though it was Agile, and this is one of my peeves with it, they were like, Oh, in this phase and that phase of the development process.

And I’m like, Oh God, that’s such a terrible understanding. But they talked about, in release planning, asynchronous communication seemed to perform, if you, synchronous communication levels the same more asynchronous communication seemed to perform better.

Mon-Chaio: huh.

Andy: If you did that for sprint planning more asynchronous communication made it worse. And I think a way of understanding this is that release planning is often conveyance of information. Someone else, from the perspective of the responders on this survey, someone else has come up with what is going to be in this release, and it just needs to be conveyed to them.

They just need to get the understanding V2. 4 is going to contain this feature, this bug fix we’re going to put together this experiment and, and address this performance issue. The sprint planning, they have to converge on exactly what to do next. There’s a, there’s a negotiation going on. Can we do this?

Can we do that? What, what have we learned since the last time that might affect what we’re going to do next? All of that has to be converged right there. And so if you put asynchronous communication in that, you’re going to have a much harder time converging.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm. And I think, at least in my mind, I think it’s important to note that synchronous versus asynchronous communication isn’t a binary switch. I don’t think you say, well, video conferencing is a synchronous communication mechanism while Google Docs are asynchronous communication mechanism necessarily.

I think the question is, on the synchronicity scale, how high or low or middle is your, is your mechanism, is the media that you’re using.

Andy: Yeah.

Mon-Chaio: Right. And so in the, we’re not saying necessarily that sprint planning has to happen over face to face video chat necessarily. And that it cannot happen over Google Docs.

But I think what we are saying, at least according to this research, and based on our anecdotal evidence, is that it’s probably best in video chat, and then it’s second best in Google Docs, and it’s probably third best in moving things on a Trello board and probably fourth best in just email chains, right?

Something like that.

Andy: I found a paper, excellent one, that that just kind of summarizes a lot of what was going on in around 2016, when We were already talking about telecommuting and remote working.

And they were just summarizing a lot of the research that had been done and the findings and kind of where does that take us. And they referenced this one. It was by Conan and Koch. They, it was a five case study case study of five teams. And what they found in that research was that,

” Face to face teams performed best, but were closely followed by virtual teams that had met face to face initially, but then worked remotely. Teams that worked completely remotely had the lowest performance.” That fits with this idea of, well, that initial kind of setting up, what do you need to do, and then go off and do it, to that sprint planning and then go and do it.

That kind of fits with that, you need that convergence. It’s not just a conveyance at the beginning, it’s a convergence at the beginning.

Mon-Chaio: And even goes back to the previous paper that we were talking about where possibly there’s a lot of creativity at the beginning that is very much enhanced or creative idea generation at the beginning, which is very much enhanced by meeting in person first.

Andy: This whole thing about the release planning being fine as conveyance.

I would expect that there is a group that has had to do the convergence of all of that information to get it to converge to the point where now they can convey it. So it’s not like your product managers, who are coming up with maybe what’s in the release, are sitting there and doing all of that asynchronously, because, hey, that’s all just conveyance.

No, it’s not. The output from that can probably be conveyance. But they’re going to need to converge to get to that point of what really should be in this release. What do our customers want?

Mon-Chaio: I think we could also talk about synchronicity with regard to mental health in some ways. We talked about how it’s better to build trust with your coworkers through face to face. Let’s call that high synchronicity. There were studies done in education that showed that high synchronicity led to high belonging and outcomes of collaboration. So let me read a quick quote from this paper. It said, “as expected students communicating asynchronously had higher individualistic perceptions. This finding supports prior research that asynchronous communication interferes with the relationship between cooperative goals and cooperation.”

We also know that cooperation is driven by, at least in part, an individual’s need to belong and therefore, of course, having higher belonging Tamps down sort of the competition and the individualism parts. And so high synchronicity promotes that. There was another study that showed that students who mostly experienced synchronous teaching versus asynchronous actually reported a greater interest in the course material versus students in another in the other setting. The paper says that “context related exchanges with others supports the evolvement of interest in a certain topic,” which is something we talk a lot about around serendipitous interactions with co workers. That when you have that interaction, all of a sudden you’re interested in, oh, actually, what is it that you were doing? Right? Interest doesn’t just manifest from yourself, it manifests through interactions with others.

Andy: and that connects as well to another report that I found about the impact of interdependence of the work on the effectiveness of synchronous or remote working, which I think, I think in this case, remote working is almost a synonym for asynchronous working.

Mon-Chaio: Well, I think we can say it’s more asynchronous most often than in person, right? Even if you’re on video call all the time.

Andy: Yeah. And it said “telecommuters who reported that their job tasks were more interdependent also reported lower productivity. And that telecommuters with higher task interdependence reported a smaller increase in job satisfaction relative to those with lower task interdependence.”

If your learning is about interdependence, that serendipity, that, that more synchronous communication and, and having that face to face physical interaction with others. You’re going to have the lower learning outcomes, but also probably a lower happiness with your education as you do it

Mon-Chaio: And this gets back into something we touched on last episode. This anecdote that we see as more and more people move to remote work. Things become more and more siloed and steered more towards task interdependence, to use the language of this paper. As you lean more into less task interdependence,

Andy: the remote working work better.

Mon-Chaio: right, people have higher feelings of satisfaction with remote work. So there’s a tactic we can get into a little bit later around trade offs, too. Very interesting, though. But maybe now is the right time as we think about task interdependence. You mentioned lower performance. Maybe it’s time we touched on this sticky topic of performance and remote work.

Andy: Yeah, I think we have to go there. I think, I think we’ve already touched a little bit on how complicated it is because it’s not purely just, are you in office or are you remote?

Mon-Chaio: Huh.

Andy: It’s also, what kinds of tasks are you doing?

Interdependence or task independence. If it’s interdependent tasks, your performance goes down, your job satisfaction goes down.

If it’s independent tasks, your performance goes up and your satisfaction goes up.

Mon-Chaio: This is not only a very sticky topic, but also a very tricky topic. I did a bunch of searching for research around job performance. And here’s what it came down to for me. Most of the research involved self reported satisfaction and self reported measures of productivity. Now that’s not always problematic, self reporting. If we’re talking, for example, about, are you lonely? Do you feel lonely?

Andy: You kind of need a self report for that.

Mon-Chaio: I feel like self reporting is probably the best way to handle that, right? But I don’t think it’s really the best for when you think about productivity. And I’ll give you one point as to why. There is a study that found. that there is an inverse relationship between your perception of remote work and your performance in remote work. So the people that had higher perceptions of remote work, they thought remote work was great, had lower actual performance, and people who thought remote work was terrible and a bad idea actually had better remote work performance than on site performance. Now, they don’t really have a reason why. They don’t have a mechanism. They posit a number of different mechanisms. All of which are reasonable. They say things around, well, it was the beginning of the pandemic and maybe there was this expectations around remote work were different and hadn’t been codified yet or whatnot. I think that already starts to show the problematic aspect of relying on personal anecdotes or self reported surveys as a measure of productivity. Now, if you take out those self reported surveys, There’s very, very little research around non self reported surveys, but there are some.

One of the ones that’s widely cited is is this paper titled, Does Working From Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment. It was published in March of 2013, so before the pandemic, and it was an experiment about work from home at CTRIP, which is a Chinese travel agency with call centers in Shanghai.

And the findings were that home working led to a 13 percent performance increase about of which 9 percent was working more minutes per shift. Hooray! Fewer breaks and sick days. And 4 percent was for more calls per minute, which was attributed to a quieter working environment. They also reported improved work satisfaction, less turnover. And in fact it was so successful that this company ended up rolling out the option for work from home to the whole firm after the experiment.

Andy: So to back up your assessment Mon Chiao on that, so that, that that kind of like, overview paper that I’ve, I’ve been using a lot. They have a paragraph and I’ll, I’ll just read you the paragraph. “To our knowledge, only two studies, both unpublished, have adopted a true experimental methodology in a field setting, only one of which manipulated actual telecommuting use.

In a sample of Chinese call center employees by Bloom, Liang, and Roberts, and Ying, found that those randomly assigned to telecommute were more productive based on objective data, more satisfied, and less likely to leave their organization than those working under standard arrangements. However, when productivity was held constant, they were less likely to be promoted.

This may speak to the implicit biases towards remote workers. And then Hunton experimentally manipulated the availability of various types of telecommuting work arrangements for medical coders those who were able to work in the home or satellite office and those who were able to work in any location were significantly more productive skipping over some stuff, than those who worked in only the main office and those who were able to work from home or in the main office. Those working from home only performed significantly worse than all other groups.”

So they know of two studies, both, and actually, I think the interesting thing is both are very independent tasks. A call center is handling a call, giving it back And medical coders are reading transcripts or medical records and putting codes in.

Mon-Chaio: Exactly. I did find one other paper. It’s called co workers working from home and individual and team performance. And what they did is they used data from nine European countries, 259 establishments, 869 teams, and 11, 000 employees to try and show the impact of working from home.

Now, they also didn’t have specific objective measures. They were also survey based, however, this is the only study I found where employee survey data was contrasted or supported with co worker survey data about that employee and manager survey data about that employee. Which I think makes it much more relevant than simply saying, do I feel more productive working from home? This paper ends up being pretty damning on that front. It shows that when an employee works from home, their performance is negative compared to their co workers that do not work from home.

Andy: Wow. What?

Mon-Chaio: Yes. Did I say that

Andy: No, I so.

Mon-Chaio: Their performance is worse. Okay. Yeah.

Andy: They, they, get worse when they, when they start working from home.

Mon-Chaio: right. And even more damning is the results indicated that even a small amount of working from home less than one day a month negatively affects employee performance. A higher number of hours from working from home causes further negative effects. But, and then there’s a, there’s a plateau up to two days a week. And that seems to, it seems to plateau out over there.

Andy: So basically if you’re willing to take that hit up to two days a week, just go all out.

Mon-Chaio: That’s right. Just go all out and go for it.

Andy: I think what we’re getting, Mon Chaio, is that there’s very little research to draw from that has a reliable setup. And I want to say how hard it is to get a reliable setup to test this idea of does working from home or does remote work impact productivity.

Because taking another section from this article explaining all of this, the things that have been done so far cannot distinguish between correlation and causation. They’re non causality testing studies.

They, they point out, they say, “it’s conceivable that only the highest performing or most conscientious individuals are given the opportunity to telecommute because they are highly trusted.” So in a lot of these studies, because there wasn’t a random selection of who actually got to take part in telecommuting. They can’t tell the difference between, are those people telecommuting because they were already highly trusted to be highly productive, or not. They don’t know. It says, “in such cases, the higher productivity of telecommuters cannot be attributed to the arrangement itself.

A similar argument could be made for high performing firms. It may be that only those that are performing well can afford to take the, quote, risk of implementing telecommuting arrangements. The best ways to tease apart issues of causality is through random assignment of participants or similar organizations to either a telecommuting or a standard work arrangement.”

Now, I would have hoped that we would have found a bunch of studies from the pandemic on this, but I don’t think either of us did. So maybe we should search some more for that.

Mon-Chaio: I agree, and this is another reason why I really like this study that I was quoting from, because they try to take it from three different points of view. And it’s not just the employee working from home. The more an employee’s co workers work from home, the worse the performance of that on site employee.

Andy: Okay. I can see that because essentially that on site employee is becoming remote.

Mon-Chaio: Exactly. And so there’s all of this stuff around building relationships, the high or low synchronicity of communication, but the paper says “holding all other factors constant when 50 percent of the co workers of an employee work from home at least one day a month, at least one day a month, the individual’s work performance decreases by 38 percent of the sample standard deviation compared to no co workers working from home.” That’s a lot.

Andy: So one day a month of work is one in 20 days.

Mon-Chaio: Mm

Andy: And if you have four co workers, or say, yeah, say you have five co workers. No, let’s say you have four co workers. It makes it a little bit easier on me. I’m assuming four weeks in the month. One of your co workers is gone one day of every week.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andy: And that’s for everyone.

Because one of your co workers isn’t there. Now, as a tactic, a way of dealing with that, as soon as one person is remote, everyone’s remote.

And then you go that, you just fully embrace that asynchronous working. And I think that that is another thing to keep in mind on some of these studies as well, is we have no idea what kind of accommodations or changes to work patterns they put in place when they start working remotely.

Especially if we’re thinking about our kind of work where there is a lot of interdependent tasks that we’re working on.

Mon-Chaio: That’s right.

Andy: And if you don’t put in things to help address that, it just will get worse. So

Mon-Chaio: Yeah, that’s right. And we’ve talked a lot about study challenges and studies around personal surveys. But I would say that what we’re finding is that it is not clear at all that working from home increases productivity. And that there is reasonable evidence to suggest that perhaps it’s neutral or worse.

Andy: I think any claims to say, Oh, it’s absolutely worse, or it’s absolutely better, I, I don’t think are supportable.

Because that, that same paper that I was reading from, actually just going back up a few more paragraphs, they say “firm level indicators of performance have received less empirical attention, but the evidence generally suggests positive benefits.” So we’ve got one paper that’s interpreting it as, eh, it’s hard to say, but maybe positive. Another way of viewing the papers and saying, eh, it’s hard to say, but maybe negative

Mon-Chaio: I think that’s probably a great place to land on this tricky issue of performance. And I think when we talk about trade offs, we can talk about what we know about human psychology, what we know about synchronicity around communication, what we’ve already talked about and project on how that might affect a remote team’s performance one way or the other.

But I think in terms of just the specific science around it, I do agree with your assessment that it’s It’s quite sparse and it’s difficult to have a clear answer. But I think probably the best way to end this episode, we’re not going to do tactics here, but it’s probably just to give a quick overview on the research as we’ve seen it so far, what we talked about today. That makes sense? So I think I’ll start the summary with saying, we talked about a paper that shows that in a virtual setting you’re much less creative than you are on an, than you are in an in person setting. But that once you have a corpus of ideas, picking the best idea is neutral to slightly positive in a virtual setting.

Andy: And we’ve also got that in a telecommuting setting, if your tasks are interdependent tasks, you will have a harder time than when they are independent tasks, and you will have you will report lower job satisfaction and productivity.

Mon-Chaio: We also talked about convergence and conveyance and the importance of high synchronicity media versus low synchronicity media to support whether you’re doing convergence or whether you’re doing conveyance. And we touched on the importance of synchronicity for things like increasing belonging and increasing interest in learning material.

Andy: Yep. And we touched, we did actually touch a little bit on group cohesion in the kind of in passing discussion of co worker relationships decreasing in quality with telecommuting

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm. Yep.

Andy: and, and the strange, and there, there are a lot of caveats given in the actual paper, and the very strange thing about supervisor relationship seems to increase with telecommuting.

Mon-Chaio: And lastly, we touched on performance. And we talked about two studies that showed an increase in work from home performance versus in office performance with groups that did fairly independent tasks. And then we touched on a paper that took into account not only the personal surveys but also co worker and manager surveys that posited that perhaps performance is worse when people start to work from home. Anything else we’re missing here?

Andy: The only thing, and it’s something I didn’t bring up when we were talking about that last one, I’ll just add this in there. One thing tied to the possible lower performance when telecommuting, lower individual performance, though a lot of the quotes I was reading were about firm level performance, is what they call professional isolation. It says, “individuals who spent more time telecommuting exhibited lower job performance as a result of professional isolation than did those who spent little time telecommuting.”

Mon-Chaio: Yeah, and I’m sad we didn’t get to touch on that as much, but here we are.

Andy: We have to end it at some point.

Mon-Chaio: Absolutely.

Andy: So I hope you enjoyed our discussion of many different research papers on telecommuting, on remote working on synchronous and asynchronous communication. It was all over the place. But I, I did enjoy it. If you have any nits to pick with us on, on these topics or where we are just outright wrong and misunderstanding or misreading or misquoting the research that we’ve found.

Or if you have other research that you think is even better. We are all ears. We are at hosts at the TTL podcast. com. And until next time, we’re, we’re going to try to wrap this up into some sort of tactics. Be kind and stay curious.


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