My friend and colleague Jack Santos sent me a link to the NYTimes story “Looking for a lesson in Google’s Perks” by James B. Stewart. Jack knows I am interested in work from home and anything else for that matter related to employee engagement. The article states that “Google doesn’t require employees to work from the office” but most people actually do work together in the office. Google, it seems, creates a place where people want to work and then expects their employees to make adult choices. Who knew that good parenting advice applied to managing people (please note the sarcastic tone).
I agree with Professor Amabile quoted in the article, the biggest mistake Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer made was taking a hard line on work from home. Our recent field research about “The Changing IT Career” showed that the top two emotional considerations leading to people’s career satisfaction (and dissatisfaction) are:
- It fulfills my personal passion, satisfaction, and development
- I want to make a difference
Given these drivers of emotional satisfaction, it seems simple that employees would make the choice to work less from home if they understood that collaboration was essential, that the organization was going to do everything it could to allow people to make a difference, and that it required working in-person more frequently to spark ideas. Add to that the pull associated with having a great workplace and it would be doubtful that someone would think “Let’s see… I like the people I work with, the workplace provides all kinds of things personally and professionally to succeed, and we really need to create some killer ideas to survive… nope, not going to go work with my peers.” Heck, if Jack and I lived in the same city we would definitely choose to work face-to-face several times a week.
There is much talk about work from home, but I don’t think this is a work from home issue at all. If employers are sincere about wanting to encourage collaboration and creativity, then show your sincerity by providing new choices, not eliminating them. Explain why new choices are necessary, make the preferred alternative attractive and ask people to make adult choices together. Work should be fun not a police-state, and the more you think that you can mandate creativity and engagement, think again. Instead, create the space where it can happen.