Maybe Marissa Mayer was right. The Yahoo! CEO caught a lot of flak last spring when she killed the company's work from home policy. But to hear Lisa Ross, VP of HR for the question-answering search company ask.com, Mayer's on the right track. According to a Harris Interactive/ask.com poll, most people say they would just as soon work in an office with other people -- if and when the conditions are right.
"What people really want is an environment where they can be the most efficient and effective," says Ross. "They're happier if they know they have the possibility to work from home, but want the best of both worlds," she added, citing a Stanford Study that showed companies that allow employees to work from home have a happier, better adjusted work force.
With this in mind, at South by Southwest Interactive on Friday, Ross shared the results of a recent private poll ask.com took of its own employees, as it seeks to make its offices a place people want to go.
First, one of the things ask.com discovered was what kept people from coming into the office: The number one answer (61 percent) was noisy co-workers. Number two was getting sick from a fellow co-worker. "We asked employees, if they could work in any environment, what would they pick?" Ross said. "We thought that what they'd want were bright and shiny things like firepoles to get downstairs fast. But what we found was they wanted to work in an office that allowed them to work smarter, where they could transition easily."
Employees want to work in an open-air environment, Ross says, but they also want an abundance of meeting rooms to easily transition into private conversations. And they want a wide variety of meeting rooms - large ones, small ones, some with whiteboards, some with video conferencing, others for private phone calls.
"One of the biggest complaints we heard was about the frustrations of finding meeting rooms - two people in a large one, somebody monopolizing a meeting room for a single phone call," Ross says.
She also said that employees want companies to help them embrace tools that enable them to work remotely effectively: Google hangouts, great internet connection, a landline for easier phone communication.
"As society and people evolve, companies need to, too," Ross says. "We need to understand employees' needs, and marry those needs with the company's culture and what the company ultimately needs."
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