Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo, has banned working from home, citing a need for greater collaboration and cooperation that will come from colleagues working side by side in an office. I, for one, agree with her.
Having been a knowledge worker most of my career, I’ve seen first hand the synergies teamwork has to offer in crafting and honing ideas. As a management consultant, my job is to come up with great ideas and fix business problems. It’s true that anyone can come up with a new idea from anywhere – at home, walking the dog, or even in the office. But taking that idea and turning it into reality takes something more.
And that “more” is what Mayer is looking for in turning the Yahoo ship around.
Yahoo as a company has been as close to a basket case as it gets, for some time now. It’s been on a downward profit performance year on year and has lost important market share in an environment where it will be almost impossible to claw it back. Mayer is the third CEO appointed within a year and it’s going to take something special to restore performance and investor confidence.
It’s crunch time now and Mayer is right to go back to basics and ensure all staff are 100% on board with her strategies. It will be easier to achieve this with people sitting side by side: forming, norming, storming and performing together.
And while it’s possible to dream up ideas anywhere, what Mayer knows is that it will be easier to deliver the cutting edge advancements that Yahoo needs with researchers, developers, customer strategists and commercial analysts sitting side by side too.
Richard Branson has spoken out against Mayer’s decision, saying he “has never worked out of an office, and never will” and that Virgin likes “to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they at their desk or in their kitchen.” But Branson is a seasoned business leader and he knows better than anyone that corporate culture is the trump card in business, and culture comes from being together.
The truth is, policies like work from home are nice to have and can deliver value when staff and leaders can make it work. Perhaps Mayer would like to offer the choice Branson speaks of to all of her staff, and perhaps one day she will again. But in the mean time, she’s dealing with an ailing business in an economy in recession.
In times of crisis, nothing beats coming together and my guess is that Yahoo staff will be grateful for anything that will save their jobs and improve the company’s long-term performance. There are 12.3 million unemployed Americans right now, many competing for the very jobs Yahoo staff hold.
While there are clearly benefits from giving people a choice over where and when they work, there’s no doubt in my mind that bringing people together to problem solve produces far greater outcomes than working all alone.