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News » Remote work hinders on-the-job learning, says expert

Remote work hinders on-the-job learning, says expert

ILLINOIS, UNITED STATES and HONG KONG, CHINA — A new study from the Kellogg School and the University of Hong Kong suggests that remote work may impede on-the-job learning and knowledge creation compared to in-person collaboration.

Analyzing over 17 million scientific publications over 45 years, researchers Hyejin Youn and Frank van der Wouden found that locally collaborating researchers were more likely to gain new knowledge from colleagues than remote teams.

“We learn from each other in person more than we think we do,” said Youn. 

“That’s part of our success as humans, especially when it comes to knowledge that is new, not yet defined. You have to be present to watch and learn. And collaborating locally is the way to do that.”

While technology has enabled remote work, local collaboration has decreased over time – dropping from 75% in 1975 to 60% in 2015. The average distance between collaborators has doubled to nearly 2,000 kilometers.

“The longer the distance between collaborators, the less likely you are to learn from each other,” added Youn.

Certain fields like history were less impacted, but science and engineering saw significant effects on learning rates. The local collaboration premium rose from 50% in 1975 to 85% in 2015 for these fields.

The study indicates that increased remote work could exacerbate knowledge disparities, especially for early-career. It suggests that companies balance remote and in-person work to maintain innovation and collaboration.

“Bring people together so they can exchange ideas in person,” said Youn. 

“We are incredibly good at learning from each other, especially in these murky ways that can lead to innovation.” 

Some employees previously expressed different opinions on remote work’s effect on careers while others admitted they fear missing out on promotions. Meanwhile, New York University professor Suzy Welch warned that remote work may limit Gen Z’s career growth.

Despite missing out on career advancement and better compensation, remote employees indicated higher job satisfaction.

Read more here.

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