IBM pulls plug on remote-working option for employees
Tech giant says business is evolving as it invests in facilities for smaller teams
Big Blue wants to see its employees back in the office.
IBM, one of the technologysector giants that pioneered the concept of allowing its employees to work from home, is pulling the plug on its remote-work- ing policy in an effort to create a more-collaborative environment for its 380,000 workers around the world.
As part of the new policy, employees who work remotely will need to pack up their laptops and everything else and return to a company office if they want to keep their jobs.
That’s right. Find your way to an office cubicle, or hit the bricks.
An IBM spokesman said the move to bring workers back to the office is being done because of how its business has evolved over the last few years.
“In many fields, such as software development and digital marketing, the nature of work is changing, which requires new ways of working,” said the spokesman. “We are bringing small, self-directed agile teams together, and we are investing heavily in new facilities, tools and contemporary workspaces for these teams.”
The Wall Street Journal initially reported about IBM changing its work-from-home
“They need to do something radical. They are rallying the troops, getting everyone on the same spacewith the hopes of righting the ship.”
— Elizabeth Dukes, iOffice
policies early Thursday, and said that the company is “quietly dismantling” the program that has been in place for decades.
Working from the office may have an impact on IBM employees in the Bay Area. IBM has about 1,000 workers in the region, including those at the company’s Almaden Research Lab in San Jose and Watson West headquarters in San Francisco.
Elizabeth Dukes, chief marketing officer of workplace-management systems company iOffice, said the change in IBM’s policies may end up negatively affecting how current and prospective employees view working at the technology leader.
“It’s incredibly bad PR, especially for the millennial and younger generations, for whom work-life balance is a priority in recruiting and retention,” Dukes said. “They will have to compensate in other ways (like) career path, advancement opportunity, engaging workplace, community contribution and environmental support in order to become an employer of choice moving forward.”
The move to do away with remote working is a surprising one, as IBM had been behind the policy for decades. Just two weeks ago, an IBM company blog post on telecommuting touted the benefits of the practice, and didn’t suggest that IBM was about to stop letting employees work from home.
“Each company has to make their own decision on how they handle remote workers,” said Tim Bajarin, president of technology consultancy Creative Strategies. “But for IBM, it seems that this remote working policy just did not work as they had hoped. It really comes down to what a company’s objectives are for their workplace and what they feel is the best way to accomplish those goals.”
IBM’s decision on ending remote working is taking place not long after the company reported its 20th straight quarter of declining year-over-year revenue. And CEO Ginni Rometty has been criticized by some shareholders for her salary, which was increased more than 60 percent to $33 million — but with 46 percent of shareholders voting no.
Legendary investor Warren Buffett also said this month that Berkshire Hathaway has cut its holdings in IBM by one-third from the 81 million shares the company owned earlier this year.
“They need to do something radical,” Dukes said. “They are rallying the troops, getting everyone on the same space with the hopes of righting the ship.”
It’s unclear how many employees will be affected by the new policy, but it is believed to have already been put in place at IBM’s Watson, digital marketing, design and software development divisions.
The move by IBM harkens back to a similar one enacted by Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer, who in 2013 put an end to Yahoo employees working from home, or remote locations.
Rometty Among the highest-paid CEOs in the tech industry