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There's been plenty of coverage around the CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, banning all telecommuting. Lots of people began speaking out on the subject, including my CEO. Lest you believe I have no opinion on this, fear not! For I do.?
But it's not s a simple "she's making a mistake" opinion. From previous posts here, you will remember that I have worked from home for over a decade. I've been an individual contributor, I've been customer-facing, and I've run huge multi-national software groups. All while telecommuting. But I'm not saying that Marissa is making a big mistake. But it does mean that her management team has no idea what is going on.?
Maybe she really believes that people need to be in the office to be productive. But I doubt it. Chances are, her hand was forced.
A few years ago, I worked for a troubled company, and the leadership team was constantly struggling with this very question: to telecommute or not to telecommute? In fact, certain divisions, such as R&D, strictly forbade it, going so far as to require everyone in a particular country to work from the same building, in the same city.?
The primary reason for this, shrouded under the same 'its good for the culture' language that Mayer uses, was to shed headcoount and real estate costs. Second to that was this realization: the leadership had no idea what anyone did, due to massive amounts of management moves, attrition, and changes in the business.?
One way to get it under control, the perception clearly goes, is to get everyone back in the building so you can see what they do.?
This might work for Yahoo, and I hope it does. I like Meyer. But at my former company, bringing people back into the office couldn't overcome the primary problem: lazy management that refused to grapple with tough questions of productivity and value. Getting everyone back under one roof didn't change that. If you don't know what outcomes you want from your people, and you don't have a clue how to track progress or distinguish 'good' results from 'average' results, having everyone in a building won't help you.?
And of course, here's the corollary: if you do know good results from bad, and you do know what you want from people, and you've given them a mission and a purpose they believe in, then you don't need people in the office to get great results.?
It's lazy management that you have ?to fix, not where people get their work done from. I guarantee Marissa has a smartphone, and she takes emails and calls from the airport and even, gasp, her home. She's not actually banning telecommuting. She's just creating a specific kind of conflict tso she can spot-check the cracks in her business.
I will never refute the fact that you get better serendipity, more accidental innovations, when you have people physically together. It is always important to have actual face time. But to assume that you only get those things from people working in an office, is a stretch. And you miss out on the very flexibility that has made us such productive beasts over the past 30 years.?