Remote Work and Silos

Hard Work Isn’t the Point of the Office offers a great insight about the nature of on-location work. It also illustrates the challenges of remote work in terms of social interactions.

Offices’ biggest advantage isn’t hard work. It’s soft work. That’s not just my theory. It was the unmistakable conclusion of a new paper from Dave Holtz of UC Berkeley and Siddharth Suri, Longqi Yang, and Sonia Jaffe of Microsoft. They studied the effect of the first six months of the pandemic on 61,000 Microsoft employees. Remote work caused “collaboration to be more static and siloed,” they concluded, noting a sharp decrease in communication across groups that made it harder for “employees to acquire and share new information.”

Hard Work Isn’t the Point of the Office

That’s exactly the problem of remote work without a properly defined intranet social strategy. Without deliberate facilitation and careful design, silo is the default mode of operation in the virtual, digital world.

  • Physical world is open by default. Physical boundaries are mostly artificially made with the intention of separating things.
  • Digital world is closed by default. Without carefully designed and curated digital boundaries, silo is the default state. Designing digital boundaries is mostly about designing interaction protocols among siloed digital units – an enterprise architecture concern.

The physical, digital, and social boundaries of an organization are the critical elements of its enterprise architecture. They define how the core activities of making, computing, and relating in the organization are done.

The physical, digital, and social boundaries define how an organization makes, relates, and computes.

What can we do for our organizations?

Here are some clues:

  • Establish team-wide conventions and rituals across all levels
  • Carefully design virtual units across communication tools and channels
  • Create a robust intranet social strategy

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