Yahoo! boss has a point about ‘remote’ working

It may come across that I am rather cynical about the latest business and marketing trends. While this is not strictly true, it does help to create a good debate. Now I would like to extend this cynicism to the modern approach to team building and line management.

Secret Marketer

I was amused to read that Marissa Mayer, the relatively new chief executive at Yahoo!, is to implement a ban on staff working from home after 1 June. She explained her decision by saying: “To be one Yahoo! that starts by being physically together… communication and collaboration is important… and 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.”

Mayer is going against the general trend – and recent surveys show most “knowledge workers” in the UK work from home for at least part of their week. Nevertheless, I think there is merit in her argument.

In the “good old days”, when putting a stamp on a piece of targeted marketing resulted in people actually worrying about where it was being sent, I could see all of my team from my desk.

If I wanted to know the latest position on a campaign, I could just wander over to my product manager’s desk. If I wanted to brainstorm a new proposition, I could summon a few members of the team into a room. Now, I have to ‘instant message’ them, or set up a webcast, or do something equally impersonal.

While I am a huge fan of modern technology, nothing is quite the same as seeing the whites of people’s eyes.

Marketing is a strategic science but it also requires creative empathy.

I am sure some business functions can be separated out into ‘shoeboxes’, just like typing pools.

However, if we are to retain that creativity and build strong, supportive teams that are closely aligned and which learn from one another, then co-location is critical.

Marketing is about engagement. It is touchy-feely, it has personality – it cannot be conducted over the ether. Or can it?