Et Tu, Best Buy? Why Are Captains Of Technology Scuttling Their Own Ships?

Et Tu, Best Buy? Why Are Captains Of Technology Scuttling Their Own Ships?

There’ve been interesting developments since Chief Yahoo Marissa Mayer put the kabosh on work-at-homers in late February. Just a week later, Best Buy — famously a case-study in implementing a flexible, Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) — announced it, too, was eliminating its tele-working program, even while Cali Ressler & Jody Thompson, workplace management consultants and pioneers of ROWE, posted an open letter to Marissa Mayer excoriating her for sending her employees “back to the 1950s”:

We were absolutely shocked and disappointed to see this story break over the weekend and we are having a very hard time understanding how this will benefit Yahoo! and how your employees can ever really trust you again.

We don’t think you deliberately meant to send a message to Yahoo! employees that you are an Industrial Age dictator that prefers to be a babysitter vs. a 21st century CEO that can lead a company into the future. Or did you?

What’s so great about the office, anyway?

I’m not inclined to believe Mayer is a Luddite. Nor do I think she’s a throwback to an earlier era (either neolithic, or mid-century) of simpler, more conventional work paradigms. And while I do wonder if she’s maybe panicking a little about what she’s finding (or not finding) while wandering the halls of the Yahoo-plex, I also wonder if maybe she’s missing the point.

Fact is, most corporate office spaces are *terrible* places for getting work done. They are noisy, interruptive, intermittently hot and cold, dehumanizing, creativity-sapping sinkholes. They are where innovation goes to die a lingering death under flickering fluorescent tubes. The corporate office sets the stage (and the clock) for unnatural and artificial  barriers between people’s work lives and home lives, when intermingling the two might prove a better path.

We are most of us working remotely, already. Smartphones, tablets and pervasive Internet and virtual private networks have extended the reach of office systems to wherever the worker is. Few and far between are the office workers who are not responding to emails at all hours and in all places, from the kitchen table to the doctor’s waiting room to the sidelines of their kids’ soccer games. And you know what? That’s okay. That’s Jim-dandy, even, provided it’s acknowledged. And considered. And provided-for in constructing the rules of engagement of what constitutes work, and being accountable, not merely being present.