High performing individuals lift each other up

Your team works better from the office rather than from home. Science says so.

Jonathan Wasserstrum
remote work
© Shutterstock / Visual Generation

Many developers prefer to work remotely from the comfort of their own home. However there may be a benefit to working in an office with other employees. Science says that high performers at the office are more effective when seated next to other high performers. Take caution: When high performers are paired up with weaker individuals, their work plummets.

Because my company, SquareFoot, helps growing businesses find and negotiate office spaces in major cities, I’m frequently asked for my opinion on remote work. The presumption is that because I’m a veteran of the commercial brokerage industry that I must believe everyone should be working out of your headquarters. But that’s not actually my position on the matter. As with many things, it’s more complicated than at first blush.

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For this conversation and for many other areas that concern modern trends and personal preferences, I like to start with the research. According to a 2017 Northwestern study, high performers at your office are actually 15 percent more effective when seated beside other high performers. The danger and downside, though, is that when these high performers are paired up with weaker individuals, their work plummets 30 percent. I gather that even if people haven’t seen or cited this study, they know intuitively this reality to be true at many offices. It’s not the slackers who ask to work from home, typically. It’s the highly-motivated, driven employees who might lose focus or find it too busy at the office who request to work from home.

With that data in mind, it’s my belief that if you hire the right people, and set them up to succeed, they will deliver more for you and for themselves if they’re given a dedicated seat at the office. At the same time, I understand that emergencies and events happen, and we all must have the flexibility to work from home on occasion. Our team adjusts, and we do what has to be done to support others.

When a company looks to expand into other cities and regions, they often take on employees elsewhere. These remote people can often be working alone rather than alongside others. I encourage them to get a spot at a coworking space, even as a team of one, because that stability and familiarity can be an added asset. Moreover, when a company grows that presence to more than one person, it’s important to gather those new employees together at a satellite office – which is what SquareFoot has in Belfast – so they can not only meet, but also lean on one another daily for shared insights, collaboration, and camaraderie.

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With a national presence and an international team of employees, it’s critical for our business to run for me to be in favor of remote work. However, I make sure that the plan is well thought out to maximize the productivity of our employees and to make sure that they’re well taken care of. Yes, it will be more costly to the business to invest in office space, even smaller ones, than having people work from home, but the payoff vastly outweighs that initial cost. If you can get 15 percent more out of people, as the data indicates, you make back that cost and then some. And, in my experience, you also walk away with a happier and healthier workforce. So, when it comes to remote work, I tell people to look at the data.


Jonathan Wasserstrum

Founder and CEO Jonathan Wasserstrum has worked for over a decade in commercial real estate. SquareFoot is a new kind of commercial real estate company that helps companies win at finding their next (and next) office, providing transparent access to inventory, brokerage services, and a flexible space offering. SquareFoot brings together technological innovation and human expertise to solve clients’ needs.

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