NPR had a piece on Yahoo’s recent “death of telecommuting”. If you haven’t heard, the tech-giant has recently rid it’s entire company of “working from home” and is forcing its workforce back into the office.
Yahoo stipulates that good ideas can turn into profitable business strategies when their employee base interacts. And not just “in meeting” interactions but while at lunch, or down the hall, or perhaps in the rest room. Also, as an added bonus when employee’s see their boss or departmental colleagues they’re able to stop them and say, “Oh, by the way…” which in turns fosters communication and interaction that otherwise would have been performed via lifeless instant message or not at all. Yahoo’s making a bold move here “going back to the basics.” Some are scoffing at the move saying Yahoo will lose qualified candidates to other places (Google, Microsoft, etc.) and others are applauding Yahoo for being a pioneer.
On a similar note, an HR colleague of mine recently informed me that her office was selling most of their furniture due to an office-wide move to cubicles. Even the C-level employees are going to give up their leather coaches and replica Mink vases with fake stems to work in the Prairie Dog farm. Many organizations are starting to do this. Getting rid of the four walls for the ability to shout across cubicles or pop your head over the wall – a new “communication strategy.”
It got me to thinking about how important it is for humans, in general, to collaborate with one another. Animals live in herds or groups. They talk and communicate with each other. We’re naturally social people. And we have all these thoughts and ideas that we want to just tell other people about. Most of the time, we’re constantly thinking about work (except on Friday afternoons, of course) and we’re more likely to collaborate if there’s others around and available to discuss. Collaboration leads to more sharing of ideas, a wider breadth of knowledge, and kind of a checks & balances.
On top of that, I don’t know about you but the noggin ain’t what it used to be, and occasionally it’d be great to have someone I could throw ideas off of who can remember it all for me. This person would listen to my ideas, confirm or deny whether they were any good, talk me through any obstacles or unforeseen challenges, and even occasionally praise me for the idea – simply because I voiced it. I wonder what this employee’s job posting would look like:
Wanted: Active listener to follow around employee and listen to ideas. Needs to be open to outlandish notions and ability to creatively guide ideas into practical uses. Must posses keen ability to motivate without being insincere. Frequent interruptions and occasional grammar correction. Eidetic Memory preferred.
How wonderful would it be to have another person who’s sole responsibility would be to listen? Wouldn’t it be great to partner telecommuting employees together in such a way that they felt as though they never were alone? Or perhaps some type of system in communicating ideas instantly with the entire company as they happen so they don’t get lost?
I like to think that in today’s booming world of tablets, apps, instant messaging, etc. that we can devise a way for our employees to interact and collaborate without making the masses all move into one large warehouse.
But then again, maybe old school is new school.