Let’s say there are only two basic modes of work – individual or interactive. Working individually in an open environment with intermittent interaction still qualifies as interactive. Each mode offers different benefits.
In the first mode, working by oneself in a private setting there are no barriers to cranking it out. You’re entirely focused on the task -- except for daydreaming or, if at home, the distraction of laundry. (Assuming of course that your goal is clear and you know what you’re doing.)
In the second mode, working in a group setting involves unavoidable encounters and ambient awareness of others that distract from such a direct march toward a goal. At the same time, you’re motivating one another, discovering and learning together; getting to know strengths and weaknesses, failing safely but publicly in small ways that build capability over time. You’re building trust with eye contact and mutual reliance.
Personal development and corporate vitality depend on such shared experiences. Without social motivation, knowledge sharing and trust there is no growth or innovation. These are not merely ancillary by-products of other work; they are essential corporate assets created through interaction.
Let’s say we expect each person to deliver 100 units of value each hour, regardless of where they’re working. Even with the “cost” of distraction lowering interactive output of deliverables to a guesstimated 70, total value creation matches the baseline 100 when we properly count intangible benefits as well.
Meanwhile, the solo/remote worker provides 100% of their value in deliverable output alone. Therefore to maintain parity the solo worker must produce 100 units of deliverables for every 70 units produced in the office. Looking at it another way, the solo worker must deliver 1.43% more than an interactive worker. (100 = 70 x 1.43)
No matter how you weight each component of value, the fact that individual work only contributes in one category makes it clear that we can and should expect more from people working alone, whether remotely or in a private office or focus room.