Having good answers to this seems really important both to the rationalsphere-in-particular, and the world in general over the coming months.
Elizabeth had previously written some notes on a Lit Review of how effective distributed teams were, which may be relevant to re-review.
Highlights and embellishments:
- Distribution decreases bandwidth and trust (although you can make up for a surprising amount of this with well timed visits).
- Semi-distributed teams are worse than fully remote or fully co-located teams on basically every metric. The politics are worse because geography becomes a fault line for factions, and information is lost because people incorrectly count on proximity to distribute information.
- You can get co-location benefits for about as many people as you can fit in a hallway: after that you’re paying the costs of co-location while benefits decrease.
- No paper even attempted to examine the increase in worker quality/fit you can get from fully remote teams.
Sources of difficulty:
- Business science research is generally crap.
- Much of the research was quite old, and I expect technology to improve results from distribution every year.
- Numerical rigor trades off against nuance. This was especially detrimental when it comes to forming a model of how co-location affects politics, where much that happens is subtle and unseen. The most largest studies are generally survey data, which can only use crude correlations. The most interesting studies involved researchers reading all of a team’s correspondence over months and conducting in-depth interviews, which can only be done for a handful of teams per paper.
I don't have any experience as a manager. But I've been following their guidance in many other areas with success. And they usually give a detailed justification of their guidance within each cast.