In recent days, Yahoo! Inc. CEO Marissa Mayer made major headlines with her decision to end full-time working from home for all employees, citing a need for greater collaboration and productivity. I had originally intended to write a blog based on ‘work-life’ balance but a piece this weekend by Miami Herald syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, running locally in the Oakland Press, presented me with a new angle for consideration: Is in-person collaboration always the best approach?
There is no doubting that when people come together, great things – in the area of innovation and creativity – can happen. In the world of information technology, for example, the need for greater proximity of software developers is fueling a major repatriation of jobs to the United States. At the same time, Pitts reminds us, in a new book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” (one I am reading and recommend), author Susan Cain argues for and provides examples of the need for many to also work separately in their own space in order to achieve maximal results. In fact, the open, collaborative workspaces with little or no walls or separation from others – so trendy at one time is – according to Cain and recent studies, far from “all that.”
Before reading “Quiet”, I, like Pitts, struggled with my Myers-Briggs pegged introvert-ism. After all, in our ultra-hyper, YouTube society where virtually nothing is private, the word conjures images of someone sitting alone in a dark room watching “Wheel of Fortune” re-runs. Rather, “introverts” (like me and millions of others) enjoy life, people, events and public speaking but also need quiet time to rest and rejuvenate, emotionally and spiritually. I greatly enjoy interacting with my family, colleagues, clients and the media. I also look forward to closing my door sometimes to write, think and strategize – whether at the office or at home.
Thus, I would argue that Yahoo’s Mayer, considered a visionary working for a high-tech, creative-thinking company, is perhaps a bit ‘off’ in her recent decision regarding where her people can or cannot work. Certainly, her directive could have been better communicated and executed (Why go so public and so hard-hitting with the policy change. Is there not room for some flexibility and compromise)? In the end, it would seem to once again be a stark indication of today’s competitive business landscape where CEOs must appease board members and shareholders – progressive image, culture , morale and brand be damned.