Productivity and Remote Work: Weekend Thoughts

Read this Vox article on productivity and remote work:

One virtue of this article is the interrogation of the methods behind the data. What do they actually tell us?

One thing left out is whether the nature of the productive work matters.

Even momentary interruptions (from colleagues, from children, from pets, from spouses) can kill “deep” work – work that requires thinking carefully about complex topics.

When a topic is sufficiently complex, any conclusions are inherently ambiguous. Both rushing (e.g., to meet a deadline) and getting distracted (e.g., by other tasks, conversations) can limit your progress. These topics require slow, iterative, engagement.

At the same time, they also require thinking about how other minds would view the problem. The solutions to complex problems emerge when you have multiple perspectives that manage to converge on intersubjectively accessible solutions. A good, cognitively diverse, team of colleagues can help push “deep” work forward.

So, in my conclusion, working from home, for people committed to “deep work,” can be an asset. As much or more work can be done when going for a walk in the neighborhood as when sitting in cubical. But, balance is achieved when people can punctuate these isolated, exploratory, activities with critical brainstorming as a team.

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