When the CEO of Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer, announced in 2013 that all employees must work from the office, the story made headlines all over the world.
In a company memo that was leaked to the press, Mayer reasoned:
“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”
Listen: Mia Freedman, Holly Wainwright and I argue about the pros and cons of flexible hours in the workplace. (Post continues below…)
Her rationale is difficult to argue with.
Communication is unequivocally more open and productive when it is taking place face-to-face. It allows us to develop trust, rapport and respect for our peers. There are few employees in the modern workplace who haven’t experienced a miscommunication via email – where tone and context are lost.
Sitting in a room brainstorming with five other energetic team members is not the same as a phone call or a Skype conversation. And for some, collaboration and discussion is where they crystallise their ideas – not sitting in their pyjamas, alone on their lounge, at 4pm.
Working remotely requires a higher level of self-discipline, and offers no clear differentiation between work and home, a distinction that is becoming increasingly blurred in an age where ‘work’ is always accessible through the device in your pocket.