Working from home can do permanent damage to businesses and careers because knowledge transfer is broken

Working from home can do permanent damage to businesses and careers because knowledge transfer is broken, by Robert Gottliebsen.

As a result of the COVID-19 changes many Australians have discovered the delights of working from home and many enterprises are planning to readjust their workplace patterns to accommodate them.

A number of professional firms have contacted me in recent weeks warning that we may create a new generation of under-educated lawyers, architects, accountants and other professions….

I’ll describe what’s happening in architecture but exactly the same thing is occurring in the other professions. To sign off on a building project requires considerable skill and gaining that skill usually requires more than a straight university education. The up and coming architects need to talk to senior practitioners, who explain where they are going wrong. That’s how knowledge passes to the next generation.

What architects are now seeing in their firms is that the work done by juniors is emailed to remote working higher managers for approval and they make the necessary changes. But the knowledge of why the changes are required and how to learn from them simply doesn’t pass down via emailed corrections. It requires personal contact.

In the architectural business it usually takes about five or six years before a person acquires the range of skills required to go to next level. No great harm will be done using remote work for 6 to 12 months. But if it continues any longer then we will produce a whole generation of young architects who will be unable to make it to the senior ranks because they will not have the same skills as the current generation of senior architects. The long term productivity and performance of the profession will be affected.