In Saturday’s (San Jose, Calif.) Mercury-News, we learn that Hewlett-Packard will now insist that most of their information technology employees work out of one of the company’s 25 designated offices, rather than work at home.
This represents a reversal of long-standing H-P policy- a policy so much a part of the company culture that it was enshrined in co-founder David Packard’s book, “The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company.”
“To my mind, flextime is the essence of respect for and trust in people,” Hewett wrote. “It says that we both appreciate that our people have busy personal lives and that we trust them to devise, with their supervisor and work group, a schedule that is personally convenient yet fair to others.”
Management consultants are divided on this issue. Some say there are productivity as well as creativity gains to be garnered from having collaborative teams in physical- rather than just communicative- proximity to each other. That runs counter to the view that flextime helps staffers charged with work that requires a good bit of inner thought to be able to be more productive because of fewer distractions from meetings, traffic,and so forth. Not to mention this keeps cars off the road during a time of $3.50 a gallon gas prices and global warming.
I find it interesting that the architect of this new philosophy, Randy Mott, is new to H-P from roles at Wal-Mart Stores and Dell. Obviously, he has been given wide enough authority to impose the solutions his experiences tell him what works.
I would favor a middle course. Day to day IT work doesn’t require constant physical presence. There are those times, though,where it does help to have everyone together in a room.
Shouldn’t it be up to the managers and employees to decide?
What do you think?