The recent explosive growth in remote working has seen a rash of new tools deployed to support it. But is video conferencing the best way for collaboration, asks Jason Walsh
Work isn’t just a four-letter word, it’s also a collaborative process. A few lucky artisans aside, most of us spend as much of our time in work communicating about the task at hand as we spend actually doing it, and this has created both opportunities and problems as information technology continues to muscle its way into the nine-to-five.
Collaboration in work can sound lofty, perhaps giving rise to visions of lawyers debating the finer points of case law, but the reality is often quite quotidian: no matter how mundane the task, we all work with someone. From Adam Smith’s allegory of the pin factory to the Fordism of 20th century assembly lines, the division of labour has long been the order of the working day.
Today, while everything has changed, nothing has changed. The information age may have seen offices fill as factories emptied, but despite everyone who gawps into a computer all day fancying themselves professionals (even mere journalists have been known to soothe their sorrows with this comforting fantasy), the reality of the modern workplace is that large groups of people come together to perform complex tasks that are made possible by breaking them down into bite-sized chunks. As work becomes increasingly immaterial in nature, and the more bespoke the outcome needs to be, then the need to communicate and collaborate grows.
Besides, even the happy stone carver, alone in his workshop, has to buy tools and materials, prepare and file accounts and, of course, market and sell his wares to someone, possibly by making TikTok videos of himself chiselling away.
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