This article was originally published April 23rd, 2020
Here’s a fabulous piece on why tele-conferencing, that team lifeline of isolation; is already falling apart, and as a consequence bringing down the Utopian vision of long-term remote working. If Zoom is the last helo out of Siagon, plenty of us, just a few days from being overrun by work are shrugging and saying ‘nah, I’ll take me chances thanks’.
The brain docs in that omnibus piece conclude that video-chats can only ever be a minority part of a wider mix of working tools. Without real human interaction we break a bit is their hypothesis. The lockdown experiment is beginning to prove those brain docs right.
We’ve felt it at Uncrowd too; our Lead Developer Craig is based in Pontefract so as to never be more than three miles from the stench of millions of Haribo cooking off in a macabre factory of stolen sweet dreams (Swizzels Matlow says ‘up yours’ Haribo).
The Madness of Infinite Recursion
There’s no need for Craig to ever come to the London Office but pre-lockdown we’d fallen into a routine of a regular one-week in Kings Cross a month, plus team events where we’d go to the bizarre wonderfulness of Helsinki or a festival, or even just a pub (god we miss those).
It’s not something we ever planned, it happened because we all began to crave it — the team together, making cool shit, teasing each other, all talking at once and piling into the pub of an evening (seriously, like I would give you a thousand pounds right now to be in even the shittest Wetherspoons).
We do more, faster and better this way. There’s something about the nuances and energies of human communication that means being in the same roasting hot, stinking sweatbox of a serviced office opposite a sex-worker’s flat in Kings Cross is better than all the Zooms and Teams and comms tech on the planet. Not every day, definitely, but the rhythm of blasting stuff physically together than retreating to do the work and then back to blasting and having fun is intoxicatingly effective.
The Remote Working Empire has risen and is already falling even before two months of it’s reign are out. And of course it is; it’s weird and sad to only tele-work and hanging out with people SOME of the time is productive and refreshing. Office attendance will never have to be five-days a week again, that was already on the way out but nor will it ever disappear, or even fall terribly dramatically.
Some cultural shifts will accelerate, personally I suspect the more likely working shift is that we will think more about our commutes. Weeks of not paying fuel and train fares has been incredibly revealing, the sort of stark A/B test that can unambiguously persuade. Maybe we’ll be less inclined to swap time with our families, and huge chunks of our hard earned salary for travelling four hours a day to do a job. That could be the real social game-changer here, but it’s unlikely we’ll swap even that for a working life exclusively on fucking Zoom.