Stay-at-home radio?

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By Fred Jacobs

You may have heard the story about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s edict banning her staffers from working out of the house.  The story is developed a number of odd tentacles, but if you focus on Mayer’s main message – that her employees should show up at work – there’s something interesting to talk about.

Mayer is no stranger to technology and the workplace, having been one of the original Google employees (she was #20).  And one of her most talked about moves since joining Yahoo is making it mandatory to show up at work.

As Yahoo HR boss Jackie Reses wrote in the internal memo that redefined Yahoo’s policy, “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side.  That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.”

Apparently, there was a lot that went into Mayer’s decision – not the least of which was data that may have showed that virtual workers at Yahoo weren’t nearly as productive as their counterparts who actually showed up at the office.  As an executive who believes in metrics, that may have factored into her decision that has become a big topic on chat boards all over the web.

But there was also this issue of business culture, and technology be damned.  The reality is that workplaces like Yahoo, Google, Apple, and Amazon have been designed to be special places, providing many free and environmental benefits to employees, from daycare to shoe repair to coffee bars to laundry services.  These companies have engineered their workplaces to ensure there’s no reason to even go out to lunch because all the food, snacks, energy drinks, and caffeine that anyone could want are available on the premises.

But there is a difference in the quality and fun factor of workplaces.  Google, according to The New York Times, is miles ahead of Yahoo.  The Google at-work philosophy: “To create the happiest, most productive workplace in the world.”

To create the kind of culture Mayer is going after, the decision to eliminate stay-at-home workers is an interesting one, and it made me wonder about how this might go over in radio.

As someone who spent the first year of my company’s existence working on the dining room table, my experience is that there were more distractions at home than at work.  From household chores to taking care of pets, there’s often something going on at home that takes your attention away from your work.

But to entice employees to always work at the company office, the look and feel of the workplace is important.  There are still some radio stations that have that internal vibe – where you enjoy being there the moment you walk in the door.  Back in the day, radio stations were a great place to hang out – after hours, too.

Too often in recent years, they have become more reminiscent of insurance companies than multi-media centers of creativity and innovation.  There are exceptions – Greater Media Detroit has its “hub” (pictured above left) – the center of the station where employees can hang out, and it’s also a great space for live performances, parties, and other gatherings.

Entercom Rochester is housed in an old building on Mill Street downtown, but has a very hi-tech vibe and a very warm congenial atmosphere (pictured at right).  You like being there the second you walk through the front door.

Emmis St. Louis converted the old Powerhouse building at Union Station into a vibrant space that creates an  internal atmosphere that is befitting a brand like KSHE.  It feels like the coolest station in St. Louis.

To keep your employees motivated, engaged, and interested in hanging out at work, you have to create an environment that is worthy of collaboration and fun.  And to keep today’s young workforce motivated, that vibe is important, too.

We’re going through some of these same questions at jacAPPS, our mobile app company, where our staff is more like what you’d find at Google than at a traditional broadcasting company.  That’s why we’re shopping office space right now to find just the right environment so that our people want to hang out at work, rather than force them to be there.

You can mandate whatever you want.  But in today’s workplace, you have to provide more than just a paycheck.

Fred Jacobs

About Fred Jacobs

Fred Jacobs, created the Classic Rock format, and has been a leading force in Alternative and Mainstream Rock. Currently, Jacobs Media services are used by nearly every major broadcasting company, including CBS, Entercom, Emmis, Cox, Greater Media, Citadel, Journal, and others. Jacobs Media has also provided consulting services to The Corporation For Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, and public radio stations around the country.