There has been a lot of talk recently about the decisions made by Yahoo and Best Buy to change their flex work cultures and require their people to spend more time in the office. What I think is getting lost in all of this is the comment made by Yahoo, which states that its decision “isn’t a broad industry view on working from home—this is about what is right for Yahoo, right now.” I could not agree more. To me, this is a company specific decision, and if Yahoo believes that requiring its people to report to the office is necessary to get the company to where it wants to be, then so be it.
Advocates for flex work schedules, and ROWE (results only work environments) are up in arms that these moves signal a radical shift backward in corporate work cultures, and I disagree. In today’s work environment, companies need to continuously evaluate how they can best compete in the market. For many companies, it makes sense to allow more freedom and flexibility to their employees, while others will feel the need to be “all hands in” as Best Buy puts it.
At CDH, we are in a customer service business where many of our people spend their days outside of the office at customer sites. In addition, all of our customer service staff can do the majority of their work from anywhere that WiFi service exists. We are also in a very competitive industry with regard to talent. It only makes sense for us to allow as much flexibility as possible within our workforce. We hire professionals and expect that they will do their job and get results. We spend very little time worrying whether or not they are at the office. For many of our people, it makes sense to work from the office, and so that is where they work. For many others, it makes sense to work from home, at the customer’s office, in the evenings or on the weekends. This is our environment and our culture and as long as it works toward getting results, we will continue with it. However, if the environment or our customers’ needs change, we may need to re-evaluate what makes sense for us to continue to provide excellent service. To me, this is what happened in the case of Yahoo and Best Buy.
Only time will tell if these corporate moves are the right thing for these companies. Competitors will use this to their advantage, especially in the critical war for top talent. Yahoo and Best Buy will have to account for that and adjust. For those who argue that these moves signal a radical step back in our workforce culture, I say that ship has sailed. The mindset of the generations that continue to populate our workforce combined with the ever increasing innovations in technology will continue to compel corporate America to re-evaluate how we work so that we can remain competitive and successful in the global marketplace.