The Disadvantages of Remote Work: How the Remote Model Is Failing Businesses

Company Culture HR Remote work staffing Work from home Working From Home

By Ravi Komatireddy

Nearly three years after the dawn of the Covid-19 era, perhaps one of the era’s most lasting legacies is still with us: many of us continue to wake up in the morning and log on to work rather than driving into an office. A lasting effect of the lockdowns of 2020 was to incentivize greater workplace flexibility, and that is surely a good thing.

It’s no surprise that this trend has been difficult to reverse, even with many organizations calling their talent back to work. Many professionals got a taste of virtual life and decided they were never going back. Industry watchers have cautioned that CEOs who do not accept this trend are out of touch with the reality of the modern workplace, and risk losing talent to competitors.

Remote work will no doubt always be popular, and there’s no question that the pandemic forced many of us to question assumptions about the standard ways of doing business. But at the risk of being contrarian, I believe many organizations are making a mistake in caving into this pressure. We can’t lose sight of how much we have lost. And I fear that the longer the status quo goes on, the more difficult it will be to put this genie back in the bottle.

The metaverse is promising, but it’s not here yet

Let’s call a spade a spade—in-person collaboration cannot be fully replaced by virtual alternatives. Full stop.

I have no doubt that Mark Zuckerberg is sincere in his zeal to build a wholly immersive metaverse in which we can interact with one another in a seamless and engaging way. But the plain fact is we aren’t there yet, and today’s tools are not up for the job. Zoom, for instance, is an inadequate replacement for the energy, creativity, and team synergy that comes from being present in the same physical space and fully immersed in the task.

I should add a caveat that there are surely some organizations that are, more or less, operating on autopilot at this point. Their focus is keeping the wheels in motion, and it doesn’t especially matter if a technical or customer service representative is sitting in a cubicle or a living room, as long as they can complete tasks and follow set instructions. But achieving something new, bold, and significant often requires a more dynamic environment—one that can foster teamwork. In short, the challenges of remote work are especially acute when you’re building something new, like an early-stage digital company.

I’ve heard from many fellow entrepreneurs and founders on this topic, and there’s no doubt that remote work can provide benefits, including cost-savings and even productivity for some roles requiring deep concentration. As a digital startup, it’s tempting to embrace the remote work model, especially for customer support and operations needs. After all, no commute time, no office rent, and no need for physical space.

But the name of the game for most startups is ultimately collaboration.

Zoom: Where creativity too often goes to die

Innovation and conveying ideas are critical parts of creating something new, especially in a startup. After all, you’re building something from scratch, with a little blueprint of how to succeed. Without being in the same room as your team, it can be impossible to get everyone on board with your vision and have them understand your point of view.

Success essentially comes down to being able to trust the people you are working with. Consider the dynamics of an interdisciplinary team leveraging a wide range of diverse backgrounds; for example, at my company we have game theory experts, nutritionists, and doctors. These folks don’t necessarily speak the same language, to begin with. When you add remote work into the equation, it only doubles the problem of getting people to agree and understand— all the more reason to get them in one room to hash out solutions face-to-face. Bringing everyone together in-person for even just a few days is much more effective than endlessly enduring the miscommunications and sense of detachment I’ve felt in countless virtual meetings.

Social interaction is a fundamental part of human nature and, hear me out, it’s impossible to replicate in a virtual space. We can’t expect to shortcut 500,000 years of evolution and still be successful. We need to make eye contact with the people we depend on. We need to shake hands and to grab coffee or lunch together. We need the neurotransmitters that help us form bonds and unite behind a common vision—and that only comes from being in person. Until the day I can look into the eyes of a Zuckerberg-manifested avatar and feel a connection with a colleague, digital startups need to plan for physical meetings and recognize the importance of co-locating teams.

Essentially, some of the most satisfying days in a startup can involve knockdown, tedious arguments around solving complex problems no one has ever faced, late into the night with nothing more than a large whiteboard and raw brainpower. The satisfaction and synergy that comes from working with a hand-picked team of bright minds to solve difficult problems are impossible to replicate with a mouse, keyboard, and streaming camera.

Great projects require accountability—and camaraderie

Finally, it has to be said as an executive: remote work too often leads to a lack of accountability and team spirit. When team members are working from different locations, it can be difficult to build strong relationships and a sense of shared purpose.

The last thing a startup needs is for remote employees to feel like it is harder to resolve conflicts, feel less involved in the mission, and perceive less trust in each other. This can be fatal to a startup. How can we foster strong relationships if our peers are little more than faces in boxes on a tiny screen (on one of the numerous tabs open)?

Some CEOs may appear to be behind the times for refusing to embrace remote work, but face-to-face collaboration still has no equal. Even with today’s technology, Zoom alternatives cannot replicate the creativity, synergy, and focus that come from people being together in the same room. To quote The Beatles—guys who knew something about the power of in-person collaboration—“We need to come together…right now.”

About the Author

Post by: Ravi Komatireddy

Dr. Ravi Komatireddy, MD, MCTI, is a digital health entrepreneur who is the founder and CEO of Daytona Health Inc., a digital health startup with a fresh take on using humans and algorithms to provide ultra-personalized coaching to upgrade people’s health behaviors and improve health, longevity, and performance. Previously, he cofounded and served as chief medical officer of two digital health startups: Lumiata Inc., a big data, AI healthcare company focused on creating the world’s largest medical graph database, which was eventually used by the Google knowledge graph; and Reflexion Health Inc., a digital medicine, tele-health physical therapy solution using motion tracking cameras in the home. Ravi advises several digital health startups and holds a volunteer faculty position at the University of California San Diego.

Company: Daytona Health


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