Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer seems to have a knack for sparking controversy. She hit headlines on both sides of the pond again this week, by banning staff from working from home.
Apparently, to ensure Yahoo’s competitive position and “become the absolute best place to work”, employees need to collaborate and communicate more easily. And as such, Mayer will expect all staff present and correct in the office by June.
Forget the irony that a company supposedly on the cutting edge of technology thinks that employees need to sit next to each other to communicate, it’s the best place to work bit that caught my eye.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure I’m going to acknowledge my bias on this subject upfront. Man Bites Dog HQ is in Brighton (where I lived for my first two years with the company). But, with national and international clients based predominantly out of London, the Man Bites Dog team couldn’t have been more supportive when I decided to uproot to the capital last year.
I now work “remotely” two days a week, either from home or in clients' offices, with the other three in the office. Brighton days are usually spent meeting with my teams, catching up on admin and, on Fridays, chatting over a cocktail (or five).
Has my productivity fallen? No. Are clients unhappy? No. Have account teams fallen apart? No. Everything’s ticking along jolly nicely, thank you very much.
Of course, sometimes I miss the buzz of the office. If you’re doing it right, PR offices are loud and chaotic, with a constant hum of creativity, laughter and industriousness. But the idea that I am somehow less connected, creative or collaborative now than when I was in the office five days a week is, frankly, phooey.
To my mind, flexibility is the key to being a great employer. Different staff have different needs, and bending to help and support them is the biggest step a company can take in showing that they value and trust their employees.
It’s no wonder Man Bites Dog has been a PR Week ‘Best Place to Work’ for the last four years. I can’t imagine Yahoo repeating their awards success unless, as the Guardian’s Charles Arthur suggests, it’s the award for “biggest group of suddenly annoyed professionals”.