Their offices are empty or, in the best of cases, with a few employees, and in their rooms there is no trace of the events that were usual before, but the technology parks are optimistic with the new labor reality to which they have swept away the coronavirus pandemic. They are aware that teleworking has come to stay, but far from seeing it as a setback that distorts their reason for being, they think it will give these scientific and business centers new opportunities when the storm rages.
The virus has canceled one of its strongest points, that of physical proximity, but those responsible for the technology parks consulted by Engadget defend that the work of these spaces goes much further than bringing companies closer together. “We are not a simple space manager, we have many professional communication, entrepreneurship, project search, talent and visibility services ”, defends Pilar Gil, general director of the Madrid Science Park Foundation.
A series of services that, they explain, continue to be performed today in digital format and they will continue doing, in different hybrid modalities that they are studying, when everything returns to normal.
“Parks have been promoting digital technologies for years, so we were not taken by surprise. We have been working with platforms for a long time, some of our own and others of third parties such as Microsoft 365. The park is not a concept that is limited to a few wallsThey are ecosystems and poles of innovation, and our goal is to reach companies wherever they are ”, explains Soledad Díaz, managing director of the Association of Science and Technology Parks of Spain (APTE).
However, some teleworking experts and researchers are less optimistic. They consider that presence will continue to be important in some tasks that cannot be done remotely, such as experimentation, but they point out that technology parks will have to reinvent themselves to address the new challenges of a world in which teleworking is going to be common in many companies and many offices are going to close.
“For activities such as prototype development, which require a slightly more industrial environment, they will still make sense, but in information systems and software they will lose consciousness completely. For managerial or commercial management functions it may still be useful to be there, but for the rest it will not be necessary ”, says Pedro Palos, professor of Financial Economics and Operations Management at the University of Seville.
Not everything is going to be digital
The technology parks have digital tools that have allowed them to continue their activity in the hardest phases of confinement, and they plan to expand them and continue advancing towards their digital transformation, but defend that the physical concentration of companies in the same space and presence will continue to be important and one of the main virtues of these centers.
“Digital is increasingly in our lives, but not only digital can society live. The meeting is fundamental, and the value of the park will continue to be valid there. It is clear that the platforms we are using are fantastic and can make parks expand their territories and interact more intensively with other parks, but I still believe that the cross fertilization process, the proximity, comes value”, Says Felipe Romera, general director of the Andalusian Technology Park.
An opinion shared by José María Peiró, professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at the University of Valencia and researcher at the Valencian Institute for Economic Research (IVIE), who has addressed telework in several of his investigations: “Many times the physical interaction with others is what makes an innovative or creative idea develop, because when we tell it is when we begin to understand it and consider questions and aspects that our interlocutors ask us ”.
Likewise, Peiró explains that digital applications to interact with other workers can distort human relationships, because they do not allow us to capture details of non-verbal, paralinguistic or contextual communication.
Thus, both managers and this teleworking expert believe that the future of work activity in technology parks goes through a mixed modality, with digital and face-to-face elements. “The sensible thing is to think that they will complement each other. Presence will not be necessary for each and every one of the activities, but digital is not going to replace that physical interaction necessary for creative aspects ”, affirms the professor at the University of Valencia.
And it also highlights that the pandemic and the confinements derived from it have distorted the concept of telework, radically adopted overnight and under very specific conditions, constrained by the restrictions and improvisation that dominated the transfer in this way. working at the beginning of the alarm state. “That is a way of teleworking, but certainly not the only or the most convenient“, Explain.
Towards a mixed activity
With that idea of mixed or hybrid activity in mind, technology parks are developing various plans for when everything returns to normal. The radical transfer to telework and remote events during the last year has made them explore various tools, from telework platforms to services for organizing online events, which they plan to combine with face-to-face as soon as they can.
“The parks have continued working and have launched a series of new services with meetings between companies by video calls or business meetings, between research groups and presentation of new companies who come to the parks through webinars. And now they are creating systems in which teleworking is combined with presence, ”explains Soledad Díaz.
The plan, therefore, is to take advantage of the experience of the time in which it is being mandatory, or highly recommended, to telework to expand the parks’ capacity for action and dissemination in a world without restrictions.
“There are events that, were it not for the pandemic, we would not move them to a virtual format. On the other hand, there are other things that we are seeing that can be done perfectly, and that can help us so that the events are multiregional and reach more people. We are also seeing that they can be face-to-face and streaming at the same time, because that way you fit on the agenda of more people. But the virtual is never going to be the same as having an aperitif in the hall of the park with the neighbor, because proximity is very important”, Defends Pilar Gil.