Before the pandemic Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, advocated that working from the office facilitates more brainstorming. “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings,” her memo stated in 2013 “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo! and that starts with physically being together.” “Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.”
She may have been right. The reality is that the quality of our relationships, and the quality of our collaboration with those around us, goes up in direct proportion to the quality of our conversations.
But this is a very radical assertion now, considering how far we have come in making workplaces more flexible and given the technology we have available to us now to work together remotely.
Commentators believe that while there may be benefits in terms of fostering innovation, companies that don’t support working from home might face some negative effects on retention, hiring, and morale by insisting all employees work on site. The most negative effects would be in the early stages of people’s careers, when they are having families. Potential employees might see them as a less desirable employer. Younger people in particular are much more likely to want an integrated life, where being at the workplace doesn’t dominate their existence, and so the option to work at home is valued by them.
The assumption of this theory is that innovation happens most in unplanned meetings at work, and if people are working at home this doesn’t happen. Perhaps another option would be to look at more ways to encourage on-site interactions such as special business events and conferences to encourage more innovation. A key factor will be to what extent are remote employees using Zoom, webinars and Skype and other forms of online technology?
Or companies may come up with a compromise policy that would require everyone to be on site on core days each week. For example, everyone in the office on Tuesday and Thursday.
It is likely to be helpful if teams have a social interaction with each other so they are more likely to contact each other outside the office for a chat or to discuss a problem. This could be fostered by the company arranging social lunches or other interactive opportunities on core days. Team games, quizzes, brainstorming sessions would all help integration. This would emphasize to staff that the company see value in social interaction and an exchange of ideas
Not everyone has the resources to have full-time care at home, or at the office. Some people want to spend more time at home when their children are young, or if they are caring for elderly parents.