Two more major US firms scale back flexible working because people work better together

flexible workingPerhaps the most talked about workplace issue of 2013 was the decision by Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo to oblige the company’s homeworkers to return to the embrace of the corporate bosom. It was controversial but a lot of businesses clearly prefer people to work together in one place for significant periods of time. Yahoo’s methods only differed from those of companies like Google in using a stick to drive them there rather than the carrot of a gilded and playful tech palace to entice them. The controversy in the Yahoo case seemed to derive from a challenge to the received wisdom about flexible working and the same voice have risen in indignation over the past couple of weeks as two more American companies have made it known it’s best for everybody if they spend more time working together under one roof. Reddit and Bank of America have joined Yahoo and HP in deciding people collaborate better when they are in physical proximity.

First up was Reddit who went one step further than Yahoo by announcing that they wanted the company’s remote workers to up sticks and move to San Francisco, where the company is based. This wasn’t an issue up for discussion. Reddit gave its remote workers an ultimatum: either relocate or find a new employer. The firm wasn’t messing about and gave workers until the end of the year to make the move, offering a relocation package to the willing and a severance package to the unwilling.

As is the case these days, the company’s CEO Yishan Wong took to social media to explain the his approach. In a thread on Quora, he argued that there was nothing wrong with the work and abilities of the firm’s remote workers but that they would be even better if they were able to work in physical proximity to each other.

“Despite the emails, messaging, IRC, phone calls, Skype, online project management tools, and even liberal in-person travel policies  — we just couldn’t do as well as we all knew we should be doing,” he said. “There were too many times when we just needed to be able to walk over and tap someone on the shoulder and discuss a complex issue in-depth, right away.”

Then this week, Bank of America announced that it was scaling back its flexible working programme   for its headquarters (pictured) in America’s second largest financial services centre in Charlotte, North Carolina. The bank has significantly scaled back the availability of flexible working foe employees because the bank is “committed to an environment that fosters teamwork and integration…by providing opportunities for in-person collaboration and bringing employees together in the same physical space.”