In 2013, CEO Marissa Mayer banned Yahoo employees from working from home.
“People are more collaborative, more inventive, when they come together,” she explained… while hinting darkly that too many employees had been exploiting the system.
At the time, the move drew a firestorm of criticism.
Some argued it was anti-feminist, and penalised mothers with young children.
But today, it looks prescient.
Reddit took the same stance a few months later, and IBM followed earlier this year.
I cite this as an example that ‘progress’ can sometimes be reversed.
The current trend away from people having individual offices and towards open plan – or even more extreme incarnations such as hot-desking – will hopefully go into reverse one day too.
There are signs.
“The open-office movement is like some gigantic experiment in willful delusion,” Fast Company senior editor Jason Feifer fumed in a 2013 editorial that was shared nearly 29,000 times across social media.
Having tried a more open plan at their previous headquarters and noted the difficulty in getting work done, Pixar opted to go with a more closed environment for their new building.
And some tech companies, like AECOM, have created “coding caves” that require total silence.
Because our best work is done when we are able to focus. We all know that.
Even the senior managers who have forced us out of offices and into open plan know it.
That’s why they still have offices.