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There has been a surge of collaborative and communication tool sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. And rightly so: more people should be working remotely anyway. But with lockdown and isolation, we might find that very real human needs cause a backlash against collaboration and remote working.

There might be unexpected consequences of using collaboration tools
Around the world, government and organizational responses to COVID-19 have included lockdown, isolation, and remote working. People are finding that significant portions of work can be done from home, and the growth of collaboration and communication tools has understandably been stellar. Indeed, these tools could be regarded as life- and economy-saving measures.

However, lockdown and isolation are forced separations, with no respite for weeks. After the COVID-19 crisis, one wonders whether people will be as happy with remote work and communication as they are now?

We’re human and we need contact with other humans. And virtual contact is not going to cut it. Human touch increases oxytocin – the “feel-good” hormone – which helps improve our outlook on life and induces positive thinking. Touch also increases levels of dopamine and serotonin, which decrease stress and anxiety. Finally, human touch is known to improve the immune system and to lower blood pressure. None of these effects, which are particularly needed during isolation, can be provided by technology. Other senses such as smell and taste add to human experience (smells are a strong stimulator of memory and emotion) and cannot be replicated by technology either.

After the crisis, we will see a resumption of large conferences and sports events, because they feed the human need for serendipity (happy accidents), journeys, and a sense of place and atmosphere. Technology is cold, unemotional, and point to point, and it can’t create these human experiences. We might see a drop in the use of collaboration and communication tools, precisely because we used them during the COVID-19 pandemic.