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HP CEO Meg Whitman To Employees: No More Telecommuting For You 477

Posted by Soulskill
from the p.s.-you're-all-slackers dept.
McGruber writes "AllThingsD has the news that Hewlett-Packard has enacted a policy requiring most employees to work from the office and not from home. According to an undated question-and-answer document distributed to HP employees, the new policy is aimed at instigating a cultural shift that 'will help create a more connected workforce and drive greater collaboration and innovation.' The memo also said, 'During this critical turnaround period, HP needs all hands on deck. We recognize that in the past, we may have asked certain employees to work from home for various reasons. We now need to build a stronger culture of engagement and collaboration and the more employees we get into the office the better company we will be.' One major complication is that numerous HP offices don't have sufficient space to accommodate all of their employees. According to sources familiar with the company's operations, as many as 80,000 employees, and possibly more, were working from home in part because the company didn't have desks for them all within its own buildings."
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HP CEO Meg Whitman To Employees: No More Telecommuting For You

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  • HP? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:03PM (#45078339)

    This one was aimed at Microsoft, but HP certainly deserves it too.

    http://2eq9hztv2wc1k6odx469m9znq0.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/Screen-Shot-2012-11-06-at-10.53.18-AM.png [netdna-cdn.com]

  • Thank You NSA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:03PM (#45078341)

    NSA has killed telecommuting as we knew it for the foreseeable future (20 years, at least, hence).

  • Erm, ok. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:09PM (#45078385)

    CEO makes blanket policy decision, backs it up only with "Because I said so," film at 11. In other news... this is the human equivalent of marking your territory by peeing on something, then kicking up grass. Will it screw a lot of things up? Of course. Will anyone complain? Assuredly not. Is it news? No. We have a term for this kind of behavior in corporate america: Tuesday.

  • by Narcocide (102829) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:12PM (#45078407) Homepage

    Hey Meg,

    Just a word of warning; this will not work. If they can't figure out how to communicate with IRC and all the rest of the internet at their fingertips, they're sure as fuck not gonna get along any better when you cram them in a conference room at the ass crack of dawn and shake them up to see if they fight.

    Sincerely,
    The Whole Motherfucking Internet.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:16PM (#45078433) Journal
    Yeah, if you're going to do something like this, you need to give your developers something to believe in, a reason to work for the company. Otherwise your developers will see it and find another place to work.

    And honestly, it's not clear at all that HP has anything to believe in. If you say, "During this critical turnaround period, HP needs all hands on deck," you better have an actual way to turn the company around.
  • by LurkerXXX (667952) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:16PM (#45078435)

    Suddenly require them to come into the office. Many won't be able to, so you can downsize without the bad publicity or cost of layoffs/severence-pay.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:23PM (#45078471)

    Where I've worked, remote employees are often those that can get because they're good enough to get it, and management doesn't want to dick around and possibly lose them.

  • by gl4ss (559668) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:25PM (#45078477) Homepage Journal

    yeah.. during the planning stage for the "shift".. wtf do you need people sitting in the office unsure of what they should be doing?

  • Re:RIP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:38PM (#45078573)

    The HP Way died on a dark winter's day in 1999, when Bill Hewlett experienced a failure of willpower reminiscent of the fall of Isildur, and failed to drown Carly Fiorina in his swimming pool.

  • It's about time... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by QuietLagoon (813062) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:43PM (#45078599)
    Whenever a person has asked me about working from home and what are the concerns, my response has always been the same --- the question will not be ~ how many hours are you working?~. The question should always be, ~ how do you intend to be a part of a team and commit to the appropriate level of communications to remain a part of that team?~.

    .
    Contrary to the opinion of most [clueless] managers, it is not about the slackers.

    ,
    It is about communication among the team.

    If you hire good employees, then you should not need to be concerned about the number of hours they are working, except to make sure they are not working too many hours.

    .Lee Iacocca - "I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way."

  • by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @12:01AM (#45078691) Journal
    Ummm, how about doing what they were doing at home, except at the office?
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @12:20AM (#45078779)

    If that's what you tell me for putting my resources at the company's disposal, for saving them money by providing my own "office" along with my own office supplies and blur the line between work time and leisure time enough that a call at 10pm usually starts with "oh good, I see you're still logged in...", expect my 2 weeks notice in the reply.

  • Re:Thank You NSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @12:22AM (#45078797)

    Bah, this is just a sneaky way to start lay offs. They have 80 000 without a desk, what should they do?

  • by niftydude (1745144) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @12:26AM (#45078827)

    Yeah, if you're going to do something like this, you need to give your developers something to believe in, a reason to work for the company. Otherwise your developers will see it and find another place to work.

    I wouldn't be surprised if this was exactly what they are after. Removing existing perks (such as working from home) is a good way to increase the rate of natural attrition. It is a standard management technique: basically you annoy your staff so that they find jobs elsewhere, and you don't replace them. If your company was in enough trouble that you are going to need a round of redundancies, doing this means that you save a money by not having to pay those employees out, as they are the ones that resigned.

    My objection to this technique has always been that by doing this, you essentially lose the people that have skills and can get jobs, and keep the people who don't have skills and can't get jobs, weakening your company. I'd generally rather choose who to make redundant, even if it costs a bit more, and keep the people who I know are actually productive around.

    But bean-counters rarely seem to have the capacity to understand that argument.

  • by bobstreo (1320787) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @12:27AM (#45078831)

    More importantly....

    It's 2:00AM, some "very important server" has just gone down.

    [Pointy Headed Management]"We have to get this server working or we'll lose millions an hour"

    [Worker]" Sure, no problem, I'll drive in which should take 2 hours so I don't telecommute."

  • by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @12:30AM (#45078843)
    This decision might not be as stupid as it sounds. In a lot of cases, "telecommuting" actually means "not working". It's easy enough to stay on top of one or two people who like to work from home a lot, but it's almost impossible to manage several employees remotely. Didn't Yahoo eliminate telecommuting recently, as well? I believe their decision was done, partially, because the IT guys discovered that many employees were only sending one or two emails per day (average employees sent way more) and often never logged in via VPN for multiple days in a row. Obviously, there's work that can be done without a connection to the company network, but there isn't three days worth of it each week. Far too many people think that working from home means that one should act like they're at home when, in fact, they should be acting like they're sitting in a very odd looking room down the hall from their regular office.

    Also, face-to-face meetings are a good way of getting things done. Yes, conference calls and email are great, but being in the same room as everyone else can make certain meetings a lot easier. They're open to abuse, but so are conference calls and email. In fact, I find that conference calls tend to be even worse than in-person meetings because everyone has to dick around with calling into the system, figuring out who is on the line, trying to mute/unmute their phones, figuring out who is making all the noise, etc.

    It's not even dumb that they announced this before they had desk space for these people. If they tried to buy the cube farms first then people would be criticizing HP for spending money on useless desk space. Also, investors might get word of new desk space and freak out over "secret plans for [something]". Obviously, HP doesn't expect everyone to stop telecommuting tomorrow. It's going to be phased in over some time.
  • by putaro (235078) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @12:31AM (#45078855) Journal

    I thought they sold ink, or at least that's where all the profits come from.

  • Re:Erm, ok. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @12:44AM (#45078937)

    Companies as large as HP and IBM that have multiple sites worldwide that work together. There is no "same office". There are 10 people in your office building you work with, 15 more in another state and another 10 on another continent. What difference does it make a person works from home? They'll just be going into the office to talk to their team on the phone/email etc.

  • Re:Erm, ok. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @12:47AM (#45078947)

    Telecommuting is nice for the workers, and I too like it, but is absolute shit for creating quality work in a timely manner. Slag at this all you want, but that is my perspective from two projects implementing the same system using two different management policies: telecommuting versus 'no telecommuting'. And 'no telecommuting' produced better work.

    You're using personal experience to make your argument. Well, good for you. Glad it worked out in your case. However, not everyone agrees [research-advisors.com]. I was lampooning this CEO's blanket policy decision. Blanket policies are universally bad -- there has never been one that didn't leave a trail of carnage in its wake. "Ruling a kingdom is like cooking a fish. Don't overdo it." -- Lao Tzu. Effective leadership is more about a direction than a destination. It is less about policy and more about guideline. And great leadership is so transparent you don't even notice it. Everything just seems to click. Well... things at HP aren't clicking. And this CEO is coming in and trying to prove herself with a nice big shakeup. This is what almost every CEO does. It's like when people buy a house... they invariably paint it a different color as soon as they can! The other color might have been their favorite color. It might have been the best color for the house. But it has to be changed, because until it is, for psychological reasons that person won't consider the house "theirs" until it does.

    This is about painting a house. It's about marking territory. Because if it wasn't, then the CEO would be making that decision on a per-business unit basis. Some lines of work function better with it. Some don't. Investigating and then making a decision shows thoughtfulness and consideration of the complexities of the business. Shoving a policy down everyone's throats screams "I gotta paint my new house!"

  • Re:False rumor? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @12:47AM (#45078949)

    You can have me at 9am at the office. Don't expect me to do any meaningful work before 12pm, though. But you may rest assured that I'll be gone by 6pm, because I don't want to fall asleep at the wheel while driving home. I tend to be kind grumpy, too, if you pull me out of bed before noon.

    Top management needs to learn that there are more important things than their ego. Like productivity. I don't give a shit about my superior's ego. I don't care whether he needs that feeling that he can dictate my life. If he does, he should get someone else to be his lap dog, I'm there to get some work done, not to stroke his ego.

  • by cusco (717999) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <ybxib.nairb>> on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @12:54AM (#45078993)

    Lee Iacocca said a lot of great things. Unfortunately almost all of them are bullshit. A more accurate quote would go more like, "I come on board for an inflated salary, get the government to bail my company out, loot the employees' pension fund, take credit for other people's ideas, then cash in my stock options and sell a work of complete fiction that I call my autobiography." My uncle retired from thirty-some years at Chrysler and didn't have enough hours in a day to bad talk Iacocca. I think the thing that most annoyed him was Iacocca taking credit for saving the company by inventing the minivan. The initial version of Chrysler's copy of the Toyota minivan was already at the Proving Grounds being tested when Iacocca came on board, he just delayed the project by insisting on cosmetic changes. Jimmy Carter saved Chrysler, by declaring that the Federal government would only by Chrysler cars for the next ten years and going ahead with the production of the M1 Abrams tank.

  • Re:Erm, ok. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @01:18AM (#45079101) Homepage

    That just means they didn't appropriately adjust their communication style for telecommuting. I have seen organizations that absolutely forbid telecommuting that are just as disconnected internally. They COULD go sit in another group's work area and hash it out but they don't. They COULD call a teleconference and hash it out but they don't. They could even implement an internal discussion board, but you guessed it.

    There are quite a few very successful large projects out there (just about any free software) where the developers have never met and may never meet. In other cases, key players meet a few times a year.

    Telecommuting can either result in a huge disconnect or the people can actually think about communication and become more connected than ever just because they were finally driven to think about it.

    In general, I have noticed that for some reason telecommunication companies really suck at communicating.

  • Re:False rumor? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Corbets (169101) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @01:26AM (#45079133) Homepage

    You can have me at 9am at the office. Don't expect me to do any meaningful work before 12pm, though. But you may rest assured that I'll be gone by 6pm, because I don't want to fall asleep at the wheel while driving home. I tend to be kind grumpy, too, if you pull me out of bed before noon.

    Top management needs to learn that there are more important things than their ego. Like productivity. I don't give a shit about my superior's ego. I don't care whether he needs that feeling that he can dictate my life. If he does, he should get someone else to be his lap dog, I'm there to get some work done, not to stroke his ego.

    So you're categorically stating that you'll work a 6 hour day (noon to 6pm) and yet it's someone else's ego that is the problem?

  • by Ziest (143204) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @01:26AM (#45079135) Homepage

    My objection to this technique has always been that by doing this, you essentially lose the people that have skills and can get jobs, and keep the people who don't have skills and can't get jobs, weakening your company. I'd generally rather choose who to make redundant, even if it costs a bit more, and keep the people who I know are actually productive around.

    Correct, mostly. I have seen this happen in a number of companies I have worked out, The mgr starts a round of layoff, either by laying people off of annoying workers until they quit, what also happens is that the smart, talented workers they want to keep read the writing on the wall and leave. The mgt tries to compensate by ramping up the off shore offices but soon discover that it's damn near impossible and really expensive to replace the good people who walked out.

    Rinse then repeat.

  • by sjames (1099) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @01:29AM (#45079147) Homepage

    Usually, when a business is in deep trouble, the management starts removing perks of all kinds (even the ones that don't cost anything). When they get strict about office hours, take the funny posters down and push the dress code, update your resume, you're about to need it.

  • by RedBear (207369) <redbear&redbearnet,com> on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @01:31AM (#45079159) Homepage

    Worked at HP as a contractor before Carly Fiorina came on board.

    Initially HP treated its engineers so well that I was actually contemplating working there as permanent staff. Then Carly came on board and basically killed everything that was good about the company. At some point she asked staff to waive one day of wages, because HP was going through some difficult period; a couple of months later she gives herself a 16 million dollar bonus.

    Carly should write a book: 'How to kill company wide morale and get rich in one easy lesson'.

    Before the Carly, people were still working around 19:00 just to finish up bits, because they felt like they were heavily invested in the success of HP, shortly after the 'merger' with Compaq at 17:05 the whole office was empty.

    Quite happy I never signed on as permanent staff.

    One really wonders how our capitalist society could be transformed if even a small percentage of CEOs had the personal integrity to give themselves a perfectly nice $160,000 bonus and distribute the rest of that $16 million back to the people who work for a wage. Think how motivated employees would be if they actually shared in the company's success.

    Oh god, did I just turn into a Marxist or something? Fuck.

  • Re: Erm, ok. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @02:01AM (#45079279)

    Yes, I noticed that Meg was utterly vague about the focus of all this furious new collaboration during this next phase of critical reformation. With 80,000 employees she can't possibly have a clue which ones would actually need to be present to participate and which might be better off staying home where they have a place to sit down without invading their fellow's personal space.

    Perhaps they are going to work on team building exercises, like learning how to sing the new company aerobics chant or silently sharing each other's pain. Or maybe it's all about physical assessments before Obamacare kicks in, rates go up and another round of axes fells the dead wood.

  • by gutnor (872759) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @02:20AM (#45079329)

    But bean-counters rarely seem to have the capacity to understand that argument.

    Most companies cannot really evaluate people. They don't know the value of the people they employ. Bonus are given based on the success of the project you are working on and external sign of failure of you direct colleague. Deep down, bean counter know that. They know that if they are going to cherry-pick people, at best they will fire random people.

    Also, when you pay executive hundred of times the salary of regular employee, at some point you start to believe they are worth it. With a team of rockstars like that, why would you care about relative performance of cheapo employee ?

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <.bassbeast1968. .at. .gmail.com.> on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @02:28AM (#45079375) Journal

    Windows 8, the flop that made WinME look popular, was built because Ballmer saw in the financial times that Apple was the richest company and totally flipped his shit, THAT is how it got built. BTW I love how the apologists claim its "innovation" when IRL all they did was take the same strategy they had for a decade and flip it 180, instead of sticking teeny tiny desktops onto smartphones they took a UI designed for a teeny tiny cellphone and stuck it on a 30 inch high def non touch desktop....brilliant. About as "innovative" as sticking bicycle handlebars on a pickup and its gone over about as well.

    As for HP? if they don't get a CEO that has a plan and knows WTF they are doing i don't care where they work, the company is still toast. When you look at the amount of money pissed down the drain in the past half dozen years there the fact that their stock isn't penny ante just shows how little connect between wall Street and real life their is, because it seems their "strategy" is "Buy something for WAAAY too much money, not have a clue WTF to do with it, take a bath, write it down, rinse and repeat".

    At the end of the day none of these PC companies can change the reality which is thus...once AMD and Intel went from MHz wars to Core wars computers went from "good enough" to insanely powered with so many spare cycles that for the average Joe its like using a top fuel dragster to go to the store so there simply isn't a need to replace them before they break anymore. Even my gaming customers are on 3 and 4 year old chips because the quad and hexacores are just insanely overpowered and on the laptop front those C2Ds and Turion X2s do everything Joe average wants to do on a laptop.

    So they can stick all their employees in an underground lair for all the good it will do, PCs have become appliances and like the washer and dryer just aren't getting replaced until they die. There really isn't anything any of them can do and until some new way of programming comes out that can make writing programs for multicores that will scale with cores as easy as writing for a single core? Then the OEMs are just gonna keep having shitty quarters. I predict the same will be happening to phones and pads within the next 2 years as you already have Nvidia up to pentacores and Samsung up to hexacores so just like PCs it'll be a race to the bottom and once everybody who wants one has a multicore it'll be stagnant for them as well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @02:51AM (#45079449)

    One really wonders how our capitalist society could be transformed if even a small percentage of CEOs had the personal integrity to give themselves a perfectly nice $160,000 bonus and distribute the rest of that $16 million back to the people who work for a wage. Think how motivated employees would be if they actually shared in the company's success.

    Oh god, did I just turn into a Marxist or something? Fuck.

    Things like that do happen sometimes. Typically only in private companies or public companies that are stilled chaired by the founder though.

    It's a great thing for employee morale and loyalty; of course, caring about people other than yourself instead of treating them as disposal cogs is un-American[*].

    [*] Irony: This is how Communist states work as well: people are disposable, no one is indispensable, only the greater glory of the corporation... sorry, the state, matters.

  • Re:False rumor? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @03:52AM (#45079633)

    You have a problem with someone working 6 hours a day? Most workers don't really work more than maybe 3, but because nobody gives damn about the actual results the way to look good is to fool around for 12 hours per day. Pay by the hour, get hours. If someone had the balls to actually give goals and say; "this is what we will do this week, when it's done I don't want to see you at the office" They'd get it done on monday. But this always continues by "Oh, since you were so quick, here is some other things to do". So next time the first thing will take exactly the whole week, or a bit more. You get what you pay for.

  • by dwpro (520418) <dwpro777NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @04:32AM (#45079749)

    it's almost impossible to manage several employees remotely.

    I honestly can't fathom how this can be the case. How hard is it to have basic metrics to balance against weekly status reports? I don't see how physical location does anything to create accountability for one's work output, and is no substitute for management.

  • by laffer1 (701823) <luke@GAUSSfoolis ... m minus math_god> on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @06:15AM (#45080113) Homepage Journal

    HP is also a consulting company. Perhaps they should work on new killer apps to use all those new CPU cycles and actually give people a reason to buy new computers. HP could get into 3D printing and mass market it.

    HP needs R&D right now. Most companies cut it in 2008 and they need it badly at this point.

  • by SpzToid (869795) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @06:33AM (#45080185)

    This is the kind of decision-making that earns people of her class millions if not up-front, then at least in out-the-door compensation. Low-risk to her ass, while such a major-change seems both plausible and relatively do-able as she seems to be smart, with no concept or care for how things have actually been done up until now, and the people involved. Hell, Marissa Meyer at Yahoo already has enacted this thinking months ago; and not the freshest of ideas. Meg thinks her bosses on the board will appreciate such a decisive move, and also The Changes She Enacted. This piddly decision has CYA written all over it. It takes no measure into the talent that chooses to telecommute (using HP IP and modern-technology) into consideration, or their personal investments, and certainly stresses the workforce and pool of talent.

  • by matt328 (916281) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:05AM (#45080317)

    expect my 2 weeks notice in the reply.

    I'm sure they expect many 2 weeks notices. A move like this is probably a precursor to a mass layoff, unless of course they 'meet their numbers' in people who quit due to the new policies.

  • by todrules (882424) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:09AM (#45080353) Journal
    She should have used this opportunity to say, "A lot of us are telecommuting nowadays, but our collaboration tools suck. Let's fix that." Instead, she resorted to the more archaic solution. And that is why they will fail. They need to look to the future, not the past.
  • by marcello_dl (667940) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:33AM (#45080541) Homepage Journal

    You are perfectly right, but the system is working as intended, it is very simple: what do people in charge use to control the others? currently, money. Therefore money must be the most powerful medium. Therefore all interference to the power of money must be removed. Culture, scruples, old style political, religious and military power. Some removals are healthy, some not. The overall effect is subtle and powerful slavery.The story of the last centuries is the story of the progressive removal of such impediments.

    Are current HR practices turning workers into expendable drones with no whatsoever care for anything in their company except the money? Perfect. That is paired with managers who have no whatsoever care, and even knowledge about the product they sell. How in hell they get to power positions? Simple, they interface with, and obey the rules of the financial system.

  • by LandDolphin (1202876) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:51AM (#45080679)
    While funny, it does bring up a serious note. Why are programmers and for that matter any cubicle jockey required to wear "business" clothes? Does a dress shirt and tie help you work?
  • by TWX (665546) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @10:15AM (#45081793)
    It's my experience that for many people, excessive casualness at work leads to treating work as casually as one may treat one's free time. Given how many people spend their free time particularly passively, this can be a problem.

    Wearing attire different for the time when one works for someone else than one wears for one's self can help reiterate to the person that professional time is just that, professional.

    Certainly there are examples of this not holding true, as there are individuals that will act professionally in casual attire, and there are individuals that will act casually in professional attire, but it seems to hold that more people are professional when in professional attire than are professional when in casual attire.
  • by phorm (591458) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @10:52AM (#45082071) Journal

    BS. Wearing a monkey suit might be good if you spend a lot of your time out and meeting business-persons. In the workplace, it's often uncomfortable and distracting.
    Where I work, weather ranges from -30c to 30+c depending on the time of year. Wearing a suit is sweaty, uncomfortable, and frankly results in some personal odor issues for people who are prone to perspiration.

    We also have people who bike/walk to work. They wear reasonable clothes for work, but they're also easy to change in/out of.

    Suits make suits feel better, but they're not for everyone. While a Hawaiian shirt and a g-string aren't work appropriate, reasonably comfortable clothing is fine for most people. Starting a professional, respectful workplace starts with attitude, not clothes.

  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @11:00AM (#45082131) Homepage

    Six months down the line, when those people are in the unemployment line and have given up looking for work, it'll be "We need more H1B visas, we can't find enough workers!"

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