There has been a very positive shift in working culture over the past few years that has encouraged employees to work from home more often – living the flexible working mantra, and understanding that being in a physical office (or not) does not necessarily mean that you are at work (or not!). I take advantage of this enlightened approach and work from home often: the technology allows me to access everything exactly the same as in the physical office, and I am judged not on my attendance in the office, but what I achieve in my role. Great…I thought.
I was a big fan of this approach. Recently, however, I’ve started to consider (or notice) if presenteeism (being at the office all the time) can in fact lead to better results. And the thing that made me consider this is Yahoo!
In February 2013, their new(ish) CEO, Marissa Mayer, insisted that anyone who could be office-based would work from the Yahoo! offices – i.e. that they would have to be present – much to everyone’s surprise. People thought that this was a retrograde step; that modern business is judged on what you achieve, not where you achieve it (or indeed what you wear vs. suit and tie). However, you can’t deny that Yahoo! have produced some stunning looking apps in recent times, and I wonder if it is, in no small part, due to the fact that everyone who works on those apps, does so from the same physical space…
The iOS Yahoo! weather app is one of the finest examples of their recent good work. It came out when Apple was still running the skeuomorphic-laden iOS 6 and it was a massive breath of fresh air – it had beautiful, simple typography (is that Helvetica Neue Light à la iOS 7?), it used motion and animation (à la iOS 7), it made fantastic use of blurring effects and dimension (à la iOS 7 – you get the drift). I don’t know how far down a design road iOS 7 was when Yahoo! weather came out, but it looked like Apple actually took some of their design cues from Yahoo!. And how extraordinary is that? A company like Apple, renowned for its stunning design, might have taken cues for its operating system from Yahoo!
Then, come iOS 7, Yahoo continued to bring out beautiful, simple, great apps – their News Digest is great to look at, their Mail app is simple and tidy and effective, their weather app got updated to take full effect of iOS 7. Sure, there’s still some way to go with Flickr et al…but you can’t deny that these are great looking (and working apps). I just wondered if there was a correlation between presenteeism and the quality of this recent work from Yahoo!?
Perhaps this success is borne through having all of the people working in the same place at at the same time – maybe it really does allow for better conversation/meetings/ideas/problem solving than virtual working together. Maybe it’s just something very human about the quality of working face-to-face that leads to greater results. Or maybe it’s just about having a very clear design brief for the team and it didn’t make the blindest bit of difference where they were based…who knows?!
I didn’t realise, that for some time, people have been noticing that Yahoo! and Apple have been getting closer (Yahoo! provides the weather and stocks information for iOS) and some stories even suggest that Apple should buy Yahoo! so that it acquires a fully functioning (and indeed blossoming) social network in Tumblr. Google has its Google Plus to as its social platform, Facebook has Facebook as its social platform; Apple has physical keynote events, stores and a website as its platform. Maybe it needs its own social network (cos we can all forget about Ping)? Heck, what else is Apple going to do with over $100bn in the bank? It would probably be very good for both of them.
Anyway, whatever happens, it certainly has got me thinking about whether a team being together in the same physical space when working towards the same goals achieves greater results than a remote team working virtually.
What do you think? Do you get your team together in the same physcial space to solve problems and do work, or do you make use of virtual platforms to do it? Are there examples of teams working remotely that achieve excellent results?