While I don’t want to be hanging on to every decree issued by Marissa Mayer, I can’t help but feel compelled to join the developing furore over her latest comments. Marissa’s order that employees with work-at-home arrangements will be expected to work from Yahoo’s offices shortly has certainly been the subject of much debate. Richard Branson weighed in, calling this a sign of old school thinking while it was reported that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg agreed with her decision, reportedly calling telecommuting “one of the dumber ideas I’ve ever heard.”
Quite apart from the fact that this is coming from a tech company and at a time when we have an unprecedented ability to have technology and devices work in our favour and in a manner that best fits our needs, I think this sort of argument completely misses the boat. While I believe there should be room for a leader to drive results in a particular way, this sort of decision making doesn’t leave much flexibility, freedom and discretion with employees. Ultimately, people want to be trusted. People with ambition, spark and drive, people who have potential and those want want to be taken seriously and ought to be taken seriously should in all fairness, be allowed some leeway to decide on the manner in which they work.
We need to abandon the idea that there is a fixed way in which ideas, creativity and productivity will flourish and that we can force these in a given space. What would be better is if suggestions were made for more regular contact or to ensure a minimum level of contact between employees. But this kind of archaic thinking is the very kind of thinking that promotes the Dilbert culture.
We don’t want people staying at their desk because the boss has yet to go home. We don’t want people fooling around all day and getting cracking with their work towards the end of the day, simply because they have to put in the hours. And when we tell people that they need to come into the office every single day, when they need to ‘check in’ like this, it is not the most positive, inspiring kind of atmosphere that we create in the end.
When you focus on method and process far more than results, then sometimes you risk not being able to see the forest for the trees. After all, prescribing that people clock in is absolutely no guarantee of results, don’t you think?