Kara Swisher, who writes for AllThingsD, published the confidential memo that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer sent to her employees last week about the elimination of work-at-home employees by June. The media was rife with predictable backlash, stout rationalizations and the usual humorous sarcasm about remote workers.
The turmoil coincided with the announcement of Sheryl Sandberg’s new book about women in the workplace. That triggered a related discussion about job flexibility and personal sacrifice that added an inflammatory layer of gender inequality to the work location disagreements. Mayer’s decision was gender-neutral, yet the comments about the overall issue took on a nasty tenor because the edict seemed to represent a rollback of progress towards gender equality in the workplace.
We think the Mayer and Sandberg issues are separate; and we’re not taking sides. But we are thinking about importance of work locations from a marketing leadership perspective because those choices are an important efficacy consideration. Marketing departments across all types of companies have common characteristics: They are small relative to a company’s total population; and they often have virtual teams consisting of employees at other companies (e.g., public relations, digital agency, SEO experts and content developers). If your company operates outside your local time zone, it’s likely that you’re working outside the theoretical 8-5 boundaries. Even if your business doesn’t operate across a wide geographic area, events that concern you may occur anytime of the day or night.
As such, we think your physical location is much less important than your availability. An urgent situation may require you to work with your PR agency into the night to prepare something for release the following morning. The need for a last-minute change to your website may require evening out with your web gurus. An IT disaster can happen anytime. As a practical matter, your job probably requires you to be on call 24×7.
That said, you still need to be in the office at certain times for many good reasons. Budget approvals and metrics reporting to peers in the C-suite require face time. Subordinates need periodic face time. Even if you feel you can be just as effective over the phone or a web conference, your presence lends weight and credibility. You cannot ignore these intangibles.
As well, your presence is needed for coordination with the sales folks. You don’t need to manage every detail, but your counterparts need to press the flesh and look you in the eye. That’s how they work, and you need to recognize that requirement.
Every CMO can cite several other examples based on position needs and personal experience.
Use good judgment about where you can and should work while striving to build solid relationships with peers that transcend your physical location.