Research debunks ‘myth’ that remote work stifles innovation

Empirical evidence has revealed that remote working, when supported by the right technology and infrastructure, can foster creativity and is a viable alternative to in-person collaboration.


The narrative that in-person work environments are the sole breeding grounds for innovation and collaborative breakthroughs is outdated and fundamentally flawed in the context of the technologically driven world.

That’s according to Gleb Tsipursky, chief executive of future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts, writing in an article in Fortune.

Tsipursky cites a recent study by science journal Nature that some media outlets presented as proof that remote working harms innovation.

Researchers from the University of Oxford and University of Pittsburgh analysed more than 20 million scientific studies. Superficially, the research reinforces the belief that physical proximity is integral to innovation, finding a direct correlation between teams working in close quarters and their ability to produce pioneering work.

However, a closer analysis of the timeline reveals the narrative undergoes a dramatic transformation, particularly after 2010, as significant advances have reshaped how we engage in remote working.

The shift in the landscape was illuminated by a follow-up study, completed in January 2023, conducted by Carl Frey, one of the original authors of the Nature paper, and Giorgio President.

Their research unveiled a striking transformation in the nature of remote collaboration since 2010 thanks to the adoption of tools such as Zoom, Google Drive and Slack.

The analysis of trends from the 1980s to present reveals that the previously wide chasm between the innovative outputs of in-person and remote teams has steadily narrowed. Distributed teams are now paving new paths in innovation.

The quality of broadband infrastructure has been pivotal to this evolution, with teams whose members had better connectivity experiencing improved outcomes on innovation.

In the 2020s, it is expected that generative AI that will revolutionise the creative process. A workflow that integrates generative AI into individual idea generation can enhance remote creativity and reduce the reliance on in-person collaboration.

You can read Tsipursky’s thoughts in more depth here.

Have your say

or a new account to join the discussion.