Tony Hsieh’s initial reaction to Marissa Mayer’s decision to recall Yahoo’s remote workers was to agree, telling CNBC that “we don’t really telecommute at Zappos. We want employees to be interacting with each other, building those personal relationships and relationships outside of work as well.”
But, as he shares in a piece at Fortune, a Zappos employee wrote to him after that CNBC appearance telling him that members of his team thought he was being a bit hypocritical.
Hsieh takes many of his meetings at home because it’s more convenient, which contradicts the fact that Zappos locks extra outside doors at its office to make things deliberately inconvenient so people meet in the lobby and have more chance interactions, or collisions.
Here’s part of Hsieh’s response to that employee:
I think if more employees held meetings in their homes, invited folks that (sic) were interested in Zappos or downtown to come into their homes, etc., I actually would be all for that and think that it would be a good thing for our culture and brand. I think getting to know your co-workers in a more personal setting is great. I think being out and about in the downtown community is actually our next evolution, and I think it may actually be better than being in an office, or perhaps it should be split 50/50.
Community >= Office > Working from home alone
Hsieh realised that he had a more nuanced view of remote work than what came across on CNBC. He would actually prefer to have employees be out and about in their community for at least 3-4 hours a day in one capacity or another. What really kills productivity and culture, he argues, is working from home alone.
Hsieh argues that the ultimate way to encourage culture and collaboration isn’t by creating what he describes as the “insular master-planned environment that you might find at big Silicon Valley tech companies.”
Rather, it’s to let people work as part of a community that they’re invested in and enjoy, and to invest in building it. That’s his goal with the Downtown Project, his $350 million personal investment to revitalize downtown Las Vegas.
He’s also building a new headquarters for Zappos downtown (not part of his personal investment in the area), with this idea and vision of culture and productivity in mind. People are encouraged to spend time outside of their office because there are deliberately no gyms and fewer amenities. The company would rather its employees go patronize a great local business together and help build the community than spend extra time at their desk.
“We want to encourage our employees to go outside to interact with the community and to work in the community,” Zappos’ campus designer Zach Ware told us. “We want them go to the coffee shop, to go to the co-working space, go to the park and work so our offices are actually being designed quite minimally to support that type of behaviour.”
Discouraging telework doesn’t need to mean that everyone’s chained to the office. And so while Hsieh writes that he “applauds” Marissa Mayer for her decision, if she had culture in mind bringing employees back to Yahoo, he argues that she’s only just started.
NOW WATCH: Ideas videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.