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Silicon valley tech workers: Get your butt in here!

Tom Kaneshige | Oct. 16, 2013
First Yahoo called its remote workers back to the office. Now HP has issued an 'all-hands-deck' mandate. (Rumors are swirling that Visa may be next to rein in workers.) Is this really all about innovation? And will this approach work with today's tech workers -- especially those in Silicon Valley?

"The best work is performed when someone is inspired to do so, not necessarily between the hours of 8 and 5, Monday through Friday," writes Heidi Farris, vice president of community engagement and marketing at Bloomfire, in a blog post about managing millennials.

Cisco Systems in San Jose plans to hire 2,000 millennials this year; the company has more than 70,000 employees, and 89 percent telecommute at least once a week. A Cisco report found that a whopping 66 percent of college students and young professionals place higher value on workplace flexibility than salary.

It should come as no surprise that Cisco isn't a fan of Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard's new work policy, either. Of course, Cisco has skin in the game with its collaboration software offerings aimed at a remote and mobile workforce.

"Flexibility and job satisfaction go hand-in-hand when it comes to today's workforce," says Cisco CMO Blair Christie, adding, "Cisco supports this new way of working by giving employees the flexibility to work their way. It's how, not where, that matters most in collaborative work environments."

Will This Really Help HP or Yahoo?
The big question hanging over the valley like a thick coastal fog is this: Will Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard's urgent "all hands on deck" approach lead to faster innovation? The irony is that Silicon Valley companies have led the world in innovation absent of such strict worker policies.

Conventional wisdom says that bringing people together physically can result in better collaboration — if done right. In Silicon Valley, new tech tools in mobility and video conferencing help the occasional remote worker stay connected. But technology can't truly replace the casual interactions that lead to insight or the peer pressure of co-workers in physical proximity working toward a common goal.

The secret of tech companies is that no one wants employees to work from home, at least not all the time.

"We actually feel pretty strongly that employees should work in the office as much as possible since it does foster a more collaborative environment," says Heidi Farris, vice president of community engagement and marketing at Bloomfire. "But we understand that folks have doctor appointments and personal responsibilities that will sometimes take them away from the office during work hours."

A Reason to Drive to Work
In Silicon Valley, the daily commute along highway 101 can last hours. The new Bay Bridge is a parking lot in the morning. And people pack BART trains in order to get to work on time. There is no question that tech companies here understand the value of having people in the office.

But they're doing it the right way by making it easier for employees. Tech companies serve up free buses equipped with WiFi for their workers to commute in. Casual wear isn't just for Fridays. They're also giving reasons for workers not to leave once they get there, such as the aforementioned Google buffet.


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