Remote work naturally leads to more communication with people you collaborate with regularly. There are less opportunities for chance encounters—the proverbial water cooler conversations. However, these weak ties are important for innovation—work informed by a diverse set of perspectives is more creative.
Read the paper The Strength of Weak Ties.
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The removal of the average weak tie does more damage than the removal of the average strong tie when it comes to diffusion of information in a social network. Often the shortest and only connection between different nodes in social network are weak ties.
When the primary means of collaboration is asynchronous (as is the case of remote work), the rules and norms of a remote team need to be more deliberate. Social time for the team to bond and have impromptu conversations need to be scheduled since they don’t happen spontaneously with people in the same office (e.g. tea time). Chance encounters need to be intentional (e.g. random coffee chat pairing). Even working hours and setting norms for when people work can be necessary.
A study that analyzed anonymized employee-level (email, calendar, etc.) found that the sudden shift from the office to remote work resulted in a silo’ing effect—employees spent more time with strong ties and less time with weak ties from December 2019 to June 2020.
A study of a global manufacturing firm found that scientists and engineers who often walked by one another in the office were significantly more likely to end up collaborating at the beginning of projects.