Is Working Face to Face Really Better?

A lot of buzz this week about Marissa Mayer’s (current CEO of Yahoo!) decision to tell all Yahoo! employees they must come into the office.  Here is an excerpt from the memo to all Yahoo! employees from HR head Jackie Reses —

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

The whole memo is available here.

Richard Branson’s (founder of Virgin Group) counterpoint

“We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.”

Do people really need to be face to face in order to work effectively, collaborate, and be innovative?  I think this depends largely on personality.  I have worked with people who when faced with a problem to solve need to go off and process for a while — they need quiet space to be effective, and it can actually be painful to them to have to stay in a room together with other people and do collaborative problem solving.

I know that flexibility to work remote is considered to be a huge benefit in the workforce, so it’s interesting to see Yahoo!’s direction.  I am looking forward to seeing if this means that Yahoo! becomes more innovative.

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