Will the pandemic bring an end to the poles of innovation?

Months after the Covid-19 pandemic began, forcing millions of people around the world to isolate themselves at home, remote work has become the new normal. As vaccine clinical trials progress, the issue is now what the “normal” post-immunization period will look like. Some companies like Twitter and Microsoft, among others, have already announced that they will maintain the home office indefinitely. Google will adopt a hybrid regime following the feedbacks obtained in an internal survey.

According to a  survey conducted in 17 countries by the cybersecurity company Fortinet, 30% of companies plan to keep more than half of their employees working remotely full time after the pandemic.

Productivity, flexibility, and a better work-life balance are the main advantages pointed out by remote work enthusiasts. But that  is far from being unanimous. The CEO and founder of Netflix, for example, stated that he would return to the office 12 hours after the approval of a vaccine as he misses the face-to-face exchanges. And there is no lack of examples of great deals that originated from casual encounters in corridors, cafeterias, or on the street.

Another big question now is what will happen with thousands of commercial buildings, especially in areas that bring together several of them. As is the case with Silicon Valley, the pole of cutting-edge technology and innovation in which the concentration seemed to encourage the multiplication of new and successful ideas.

Empty spaceship

It is one of the regions with the highest GDP per capita in the world and the highest cost of living. Inaugurated five years ago, Apple’s headquarters, a circular building dubbed spaceship, has space to accommodate more than 12,000 employees in the 260,000 m² central building.  But the company’s president said he did not believe we would return to the same scenario as it was before the pandemic. The perspective that properties, including residential ones, whose prices are high, in the innovation mecca become empty spaces embodies an irony: remote work was only possible with the innovations developed by the companies installed there.

And even with their geographically dispersed teams, ideas continue to flourish. Startups like  Gather and Hopin,  have been developing videoconferencing applications in which, after the presentation, people have a “coffee break”, a virtual room where you can interact with others, as in a face-to-face event, or book conversations with a restricted group that has the same interests.

Another advantage of remote connections pointed out by critics of excellence poles such as Silicon Valley, where there is a certain homogeneity of profiles, is to expand diversity in companies.

History shows us that poles of creativity and genius do not become permanent. After the decay in the 16th century, Florence was not replaced by another similar artistic concentration. And history continued with development in other areas.