It was the office memo heard ‘round the round the world. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said that for that company to succeed – her employees need to stop working from home. Twenty years ago that would have been no big deal, but nowadays Mayer’s edict is being treated as a scandalous blast from the past.
Tom Culotta, a senior manager at Autodesk, a 3D software design firm with offices in Waltham, said he works at home about once a week. He’s baffled by Mayer’s edict banning her employees from doing the same thing.
“I just think that it was a step backwards,” he said.
Culotta said that when he really needs to focus, getting away from the office provides a boost.
“Next week we have our worldwide sales conference, and I have to put together a presentation I’m delivering,” he said. “So without getting the distractions of people coming up to you and chatting – this way I can sit hear, focus, and do my job, and it works out great.”
Thanks to recent advances in technology he can also collaborate with colleagues around the world, in real time, in a way that was impossible a decade ago.
“My manager is based out of Munich Germany,” he said. “I can talk to him, have face to face conversations any time I want through the use of Link technology. Very simple. We use the internet. We don’t have to worry about dialing any funny digits, or having big expensive phone bills.”
If there’s a negative stereotype attached to working from home, it’s that it really means sitting around, in your pajamas, eating junk food, and doing anything but work.
Still, you don’t need to believe that to think Mayer may have a point. Steve Connelly, head of the Boston ad agency Connelly Partners, said he takes a “common-sense” approach to flex time.
“You have to get access to the best talent, the best thinking,” he said. “A lot of people are either not in the market or have family situations that require them to be in other places. I want to get access to that talent.”
That said, Connelly Partners prizes workplace interactions -- hence the ping-pong table near the kitchen and the full-size bar in the middle of the office. In his business, Connelly said, the best ideas come from employees talking face to face.
“We’re in the content business,” he said. “I want people here. I want them talking, I want them interacting. Yes, it’s over the phone, yes it’s over email. Nothing matches in person.”
So while Connelly gets the criticism of Mayer, he also thinks she’s getting a bum rap.
“I believe the stock price of the company, which has been foundering, has gone from 15 and change to 21 and change in about 10 months of her leadership,” he said. “Whatever she’s doing is creating jobs, protecting jobs, growing the economy. She’s a very bright person. Let her run her company her way.”
But as the anti-Mayer backlash grows, it may be too late for that.