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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?

More importantly, companies are changing the physical office space to encourage collaboration, social interaction and close working relationships. Over the years, I've visited many tech companies throughout Silicon Valley and have seen this transformation.

In the past, faceless workers toiled in a sea of cubicles, while top executives stole away in closed-door offices. It was eerie, quiet and gray with only the droning sound of keyboard clicks. Then the walls began to shrink. Finally, you could stand up and ask your neighbor co-worker a question. A little later, conference rooms sprouted, and teams could schedule a time and gather to write on a whiteboard and discuss projects.

Today, it's all open space, all the time. Rows of tables have replaced cubicles. The walls have been taken down, and executives work alongside everyone else. It's noisy. Generally speaking, workers want to be there. The idea of working at home sounds lonely.

But that's the problem with Yahoo's and Hewlett-Packard's dictates. They're taking up the stick, not the carrot. Silicon Valley workers are still prideful, and many (especially millennials) might not appreciate being told when and where to work.

While Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard employees will likely still continue to report to the offices — after all, everyone needs a job — they likely won't be too happy about it. Close physical proximity, peer-fueled energy and collaborative open spaces can spark innovation and creative ideas, but employees harboring resentment while suffering through a long commute probably won't.


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