Remote Work Is Better for Innovation Than Office Meetings

Since it isn’t done the right way, managers think we should go back to the office.

Younes Henni, PhD
3 min readOct 22, 2021


Photo by Compare Fibre on Unsplash

While your boss might want you back in the office, scientific evidence suggests you’re better off working from home. Yes, remote meetings generate more and better ideas than office meetings.

Sadly, most leaders are ignorant of this fact. They cling to the false belief that remote work makes brainstorming hard and stifles innovation. As a result, they coerce employees into coming back to the office against their will.

The truth is, remote innovation doesn’t work well if we use the office-based approach. Virtual brainstorming requires a totally different strategy than face to face meetings.

According to behavioural scientists, employees generate ideas during face to face meetings in two ways:

  • Thoughts shared by one participant trigger ideas in other participants.
  • Participants get extra motivated when closely collaborating with equally intelligent peers.

Now, this looks like a decent strategy. But it has several problems.

The first problem is production blocking. That’s when someone has a great idea but doesn’t have a chance to express it, so the idea is lost in the mix.

Introverts suffer from production blocking the most. It’s harder for them to express their opinions, especially when meetings are crowded and noisy. Introverts seldom interrupt a stream of conversation to speak. When they do, their low and moderate tone is no match for extroverts’ loud and assertive voices.

The second problem is evaluation apprehension. That’s when team members (particularly juniors) worry about sharing their ideas openly. They fear that colleagues might find their ideas stupid, or perhaps they’ve experienced actual ridicule in past situations. The fact is, even if companies promote zero-judgment idea-sharing, many people won’t share still lest they be judged.

It is no surprise that the more people go to a meeting, the fewer ideas each member has. That’s because production blocking and evaluation apprehension are stronger in crowds. As a result, many good ideas aren’t heard or, worse, ignored.

Remote work fixes both problems. But it has to be done the right way. According to research, there are a few steps to make remote brainstorming effective.

Step #1: Generation

Team members generate ideas and add them to a shared digital collaboration tool. The submissions should be anonymous (1).

Since submissions are anonymous and remote, production blocking and evaluation apprehension won’t be a problem.

Step #2: Preparation

Ideas are grouped, categorised, and sent to all team members.

Step #3: Evaluation

All team members anonymously comment on each idea.

Step #4: Revision

After commenting, ideas are edited, enhanced, or forgone. The list is locked.

Step #5: Selection

Team members give a score for each item in the locked list. The team agrees on which ideas are best for implementation.

Step #6: Implementation

With brainstorming done, the only thing left is to distribute tasks among team members.

This kind of remote brainstorming wins over office meetings in two levels:

Effective brainstorming is anonymous and digital. It also offers equal opportunity to introverts and juniors to express themselves. As a result, remote teams innovate more while making everyone feel valued and heard.

If you’re a team leader, a manager, or a considerate employee, give remote brainstorming a shot. Speak to your colleagues or manager about the five steps technique. Remote work, done the right way, lead to higher productivity than office work.


(1) This being said, management should have the option to track submissions to their authors for performance monitoring. But they should do that at a later date, not during the meeting or immediately after it.



Younes Henni, PhD

Physicist • Soft Dev • ☕ Junkie • I bring you the latest in science, tech, health, economics & personal growth. To read all: