Looks like Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer may have missed the point with her edict earlier this week that company employees are no longer allowed to work from home. Traditional media, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social media have all been abuzz over the declaration that by June all Yahoo! employees must report to the office every day if they want to keep their jobs.
Mayer is trying to turn around a company that once was an Internet leader, but has been performing poorly over the past few years. It’s her belief that the way to get the swagger back and get the workforce back on the same page is by having them all in the same building, or on the same campus, so they can interact face-to-face and build a sense of camaraderie. I get that.
But as with certain other debates raging in the U.S. right now, Mayer seems to be blaming the technology that enables telecommuting rather than looking at how it’s being used. That’s the wrong focus.
There are a great many reasons work at home, when done properly, makes sense. It opens an organization to a much wider talent pool than it can obtain by requiring workers to be present at a particular location. Telecommuting improves productivity, because time that might be spent battling traffic or waiting on public transportation can instead be spent working. It also leads to a happier and more loyal workforce, as evidenced by a 2011 WorldAtWork study that found companies that embraced flexibility had lower turnover and higher employee satisfaction, motivation and engagement. Many highly successful companies like Accenture use hoteling to save millions in fixed real estate costs while accommodating their employees’ busy travel and worklife balance.
The truth is there are all kinds of ways to build that sense of togetherness and teamwork without requiring constant attendance at an office. West’s InterCall Event Services group has virtual environment technology that actually improves productivity through an online workspace that provide the opportunity for “hallway” conversations or even after-hours meet-ups without everyone having to be in the same place at the same time.
And there’s the key. Often organizations look at communications as a technology cost, instead of a catalyst to collaboration, which in turn inspires innovation and growth.
While some hallway, or water cooler, or cafeteria conversations might spark spontaneous ideas, the truth is that most focus on the banalities of life or work. When was the last time you had a truly great idea while while pouring a cup of coffee?
What needs to change at nearly every company is the idea that sitting in a home office is isolating and unproductive. By building a culture of collaboration, organizations, can benefit from the collective intelligence of the group, which allows them to do great things and build an enduring company.
The world has changed, and it’s not going back. Rather than being seen as a barrier to a sense of common purpose, unified communications should be embraced as the enabler. With the right approach, it will enhance the interaction between co-workers which ultimately leads to success.
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