The Right Way for Yahoo to Get Its Employees to Come to the Office

Rick Wartzman
Rick Wartzman

In his latest column for Forbes online, Drucker Institute Executive Director Rick Wartzman writes about Yahoo’s new policy to have employees work only in the office, not from home.

Peter Drucker “long recognized the inherent tension between the cohesion that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is trying to stimulate with her in-the-office edict and the benefits of working from home,” Wartzman writes. “Among these virtues: cutting down on traffic congestion and commuter-generated pollution.”

“What is the point of spending such huge sums to bring a 200-pound body downtown when all you want of it is its eight-and-a-half-pound brain?” Drucker once asked a group of business leaders interested in erecting more office buildings in downtown Dallas.

At the same time, however, “Drucker would have understood Yahoo’s compulsion to have all of its employees congregate in the same physical space,” Wartzman says. As Drucker wrote: “Long-distance information does not replace face-to-face relationships. It makes them actually more important. . . . It makes it more important to have trust in one another.”

“But that’s exactly the problem with what Yahoo is doing,” Wartzman asserts. “A directive like this does little to foster trust; it may even undermine it.

“Rather than attempting to spur communication and collaboration by fiat, Yahoo would be wiser to concentrate on creating an atmosphere that acts as a magnet: that gives its workers the flexibility in their work arrangements that they crave, but that pulls them into the office as much as possible by providing them a strong sense of meaning, satisfaction and joy.

“In short,” Wartzman says, “employees shouldn’t go into the office because they have to; they should go because they want to.”