In my morning perusal of the news today, I came across this article (and this one with a copy of the actual memo) describing a newly-revised policy for Yahoo! workers. “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” reads a memo to employees from HR head Jackie Reses. “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.” Those employees who work remotely and those with work-from-home arrangements are being asked to now work within Yahoo! offices.
Of course it makes sense for a tech company, one also heavily invested in emerging technologies on mobile platforms, to allow workers to spend time working from home. At it’s base, I see very little issue there. What makes more sense to me is the attempt on CEO Marissa Mayer’s behalf to reinvigorate the culture of the Yahoo! workplace. To do that, you must be present. Actually be in attendance. (Flex time and other case-basis examples are not my focus here, rather where a worker spends the majority of their working hours – actually working.) “Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.”
Yes, I understand, and concede, that especially in today’s world one can contribute to a culture – corporate or otherwise – and even its new direction without being in the room. So many communities are web-based, message-board based, interactive-game-console based, social-media based, video-tele-conference-call based that physical, person-to-person contact is not required for progress to be made.
But let’s get real. Where are your best, most meaningful relationships forged and developed? In person.
That’s right. Think about it. Over lunch. In the locker room before a swim. At the dinner table. In the clubhouse after a round of golf. During a weekend camping trip. Halftime at a soccer game. Heck, at a bar for happy hour! Lest we forget (or diverge too far from the topic at hand), across from your cubicle, around the corner from your desk, or down the hall with a coworker from the next office. “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.” Agreed.
It’s important for workers to work together. Instant messaging, email, and phone calls are a requirement in today’s business environment inside or outside an office. Most business communication cannot, by consequence of location, occur in person. Our daily interactions are filled with text messages, blogs, memes, and any number of other virtual interactions (and distractions). But it is important to be present. In person. Focused on conversing with your neighbor. Not just typing code in your jammies with Dorito-stained lips and unwashed hair. Not just Skyping into group meetings while watching SportsCenter on mute. Adjusting the framework, as Yahoo! is, of a corporate culture to allow more in-person communication is valuable.
Hey, we all need those days when we’re not plugged into the big machine. And I’m not just talking the weekend either. But for a company like Yahoo!, and a CEO like Mayer, their best shot is to work from within making small moves to get to their bigger goal. This is one of the steps along their journey.
And to me it is a reminder of the strength of moving in a direction together. Stronger and better as a group. Not an army of mindless drones, or a school of fishes, but a team of talents pointed towards the shining star they are trying to reach.