Technology can't and shouldn't replace personal connection

The rise of working from home has helped change how we view the business landscape.

For many people it has proved hugely helpful in developing meaningful and successful careers, whilst keeping up with the pace of day-to-day life.

In the case of working parents, or individuals who find it hard to travel far from home, the growing acceptance and appreciation for work conducted in the home is opening up new, and very successful, opportunities - with home workers now contributing an estimated £167 billion to the UK economy annually.

Year on year, the flexible working landscape continues to progress further with the number of people working from home having reached over 4 million and predictions that by 2020, half of the UK workforce will be working remotely. It’s clear that an increasing number of employees and entrepreneurs are choosing to break free from the traditional office.

The prospect of leaving the outdated office behind is often a dream held by employees seeking a more flexible working pattern to help them achieve a better work-life balance.

However, whilst working from home can empower employees with a new-found sense of freedom and potential, it can also isolate them from the experiences and exchanges that come from being in a bustling workplace.

Technology is facilitating this growth of flexible working using AI, machine learning and on-call connectivity, and it has become a fundamental business function, but the relationships we develop in the office through face-to-face interaction cannot be built solely through a weekly conference call.

People are social beings who want to be part of a community and crave a sense of belonging. So, whilst technology has made it easier than ever to stay connected to colleagues and clients, there is a possibility that this new approach to work may cause feelings of detachment from co-workers and communities.

Instead, if designed with the modern-day employees’ needs in mind, purpose-built spaces can provide teams with a flexible working environment that still offers the important sense of community between colleagues, business associates and even strangers who are embarking on similar trajectories.

As a result of this rise, the demand from both freelancers and businesses alike has risen rapidly, with the number of shared workspaces in the UK doubling year on year since 2006. It is now estimated that over 1 million individuals are using shared workspaces globally. With 50 per cent of WeWork members claiming to have done business together and 70 per cent having worked together in some way, it’s clear that collaboration enabled by these environments is key for successful business.

That’s why, when we set up our Creator Awards programme to support entrepreneurs and local businesses by giving away £1.1 million in the UK last year, we also offered all applicants a 12-month WeWork membership so that they could benefit from being part of the community.

Whilst the ability to work remotely, travel and explore is an advantage to today’s workforce, real life connection simply can’t be replaced.

In many ways, it’s more important than ever to make sure that technology is enabling person-to-person connection rather than wholesale replacing it.

Technology can often act as the entry-point to a coffee, meeting, introduction, or business connection. It just shouldn’t be the final stop or we lose a bit of the humanity that comes with being part of a wider community.

You can apply for this year’s Creator Awards here: we.co/london-apply

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

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