Principal Consultant, Collaboration / Multimedia / Video / AV
Director of Emerging Technology
Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance
When is a Smarter Working Policy not a Smarter Working Policy?
There’s been a lot of coverage in the media and discussions on the internet recently about Yahoo’s new Chief Executive, Marissa Mayer, issuing an edict that bans employees from working remotely. The original HR memo said that Yahoo needed to increase its spontaneous face-to-face interaction among employees to foster a more collaborative culture.
Now a statement like that doesn’t pass the sniff test on a whole lot of levels. As a professional in the collaboration space I am required to peel the onion a bit and help explain what is really going on and what the facts are.
First-off, working remotely (which includes the stigma-laden “working from home”) is just one small part of what has become known as “Smarter Working.” Basically, this concept means that a combination of today’s collaboration technologies, modern collaborative office spaces and flexible working arrangements provides so many benefits that the stodgiest old-school executive can’t deny it anymore. When implemented correctly, productivity tremendously increases, organizational infrastructure and real estate costs go down, recruiting efforts are improved and employee moral reaches new heights. Study after study continue to prove these facts. If you want to think of it in simple terms, just look at a single employee that commutes for one hour to the office every day and a second hour home. In the course of one year of remote working that’s approximately 500 hours of productive time that gets returned to the employee – much of which goes to the benefit of the employer. That doesn’t even begin to mention the carbon emissions saved, the employer’s cost of real estate not needed for a desk and chair, the cost of electricity, heating and cooling, etc.
In addition to all that, modern collaboration tools are just as effective (if not more so) at fostering spontaneous interaction between employees than any “bump in the hallway.” Escalating an instant message to a video chat to a desktop sharing session transforms an interaction from one that would have needed a number of follow-ups (if it happened at the “water cooler”) to one that is immediately resolved. It also allows for these spontaneous interactions to break geographical boundaries. During my typical day I spontaneously act with my team (and clients) in North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Washington State, California and London from my home office in New Jersey. In addition, when I recently had an unexpected delay at the airport (that never happens at the new United, right?), I pulled out my technology and began to collaborate in a videoconference with document sharing right from Hartsfield Gate 8.
My “office” is wherever I am
That is in fact one of the key tenets of “Smarter Working” – work isn’t a place where you go, it’s what you do.
I was recently privileged to moderate a forum on smarter working for a number of firms in San Francisco. Take a look at the video on YouTube and see for yourself what experts and end-users had to say about it.
The real situation at Yahoo is more likely that they are in “Crisis Mode” as the New York Times put it, and are trying to rein-in employees that have been mismanaged and getting away with things for years. Good managers are undeniably an essential part of an effective smarter working strategy. It takes strong managerial skills to understand which employees are productive and which are not, and to ensure that each one receives effective leadership. However, go back and read that last sentence again. It doesn’t just apply to remote workers, it applies to all workers. If ineffective managers are allowed to supervise a workforce, poor employees will find ways to slack off without any remote technology, and good employees will do their best while dealing with the frustrations that a lousy boss brings. The technology is never going to make a good employee bad or a bad supervisor good.
Ms. Mayer is more than likely trying to clean house without coming out and saying that. In fact, the day after the initial brouhaha, Yahoo issued a clarifying statement that stated their new mandate “…isn’t a broad industry view on working from home.” I believe that once some of the excesses of the past poor supervision have been discovered and eliminated that Yahoo and Ms. Mayer will again embrace smarter working and collaboration technologies. Coming from Google I’m sure she understands that they are the essential foundation of any organization that wants to evolve rather than die.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions. David has 35 years of experience providing problem solving leadership and innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds - including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase. He now works with Dimension Data as their Principal Consultant for the collaboration, multimedia, video and AV disciplines. He is also the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology. David can be reached at David.Danto@Dimensiondata.com or DDanto@imcca.org and his full bio and other blogs and articles can be seen at Danto.info. Please reach-out to David if you would like to discuss how he can help your organization solve video problems or develop a future-proof collaboration strategy.