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IBM is Telling Remote Workers To Get Back in the Office Or Leave (wsj.com) 215

For the last few years, IBM has built up a remote work program for its 380,000 employees. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that IBM is "quietly dismantling" this option, and has told its employees this week that they either need to work in the office or leave the company (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). From the report: IBM is giving thousands of its remote workers in the U.S. a choice this week: Abandon your home workspaces and relocate to a regional office -- or leave the company. The 105-year-old technology giant is quietly dismantling its popular decades-old remote work program to bring employees back into offices, a move it says will improve collaboration and accelerate the pace of work. The changes comes as IBM copes with 20 consecutive quarters of falling revenue and rising shareholder ire over Chief Executive Ginni Rometty's pay package. The company won't say how many of its 380,000 employees are affected by the policy change, which so far has been rolled out to its Watson division, software development, digital marketing, and design -- divisions that employ tens of thousands of workers. The shift is particularly surprising since the Armonk, N.Y., company has been among the business world's staunchest boosters of remote work, both for itself and its customers. IBM markets software and services for what it calls "the anytime, anywhere workforce," and its researchers have published numerous studies on the merits of remote work.
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IBM is Telling Remote Workers To Get Back in the Office Or Leave

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  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @12:45PM (#54449271) Journal

    So, let's fuck with the regular employees. That'll fix it.

    • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @05:14PM (#54451277) Homepage

      Since when did IBM hire "regular employees?"

      If you're regular, don't even bother applying.

      You have to be exceptional, and also have pressed shirts.

      Real IBMers were still wearing their pressed shirts when working from home, and it isn't really that big a change for them to come back to the office.

  • by segedunum ( 883035 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @12:48PM (#54449307)
    IBM can come up with as many pointless management changes as they like, but it won't alter the fact that this is a sinking company that does very, very, very little that is of any real use to anyone. Most of IBM's so-called activity is totally pointless and they've had a succession of clueless CEOs on exorbitant paypackets, none more so than the current brainless moron at the helm.
    • "... current brainless moron at the helm."

      Report: IBM's top exec pay package 'now worth $65 million' [wraltechwire.com]. Quote: "... IBM has posted declining revenues over the past five years under her leadership and last week reported declining revenue for the 20th consecutive quarter."

      Could someone explain how CEOs get such high pay?

      IBM == Is Brainless Moron?

      IBM == Insufferably Bad Management?
      • Declining revenue or declining profit? You can't just expect revenue to continue growing in an older company, at some point your market is saturated or you are inflating a bubble. I see IBM doing pretty well in its more futuristic technologies section. The problem is lack of innovation anywhere else.

  • Big Company Moves (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MangoCats ( 2757129 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @12:54PM (#54449349)

    IBM, a giant corporation with big financial challenges, is addressing their labor cost issues by issuing a blanket proclamation that will remove mostly older, higher salaried employees from their workforce while simultaneously retaining and hiring in more younger, cheaper employees in the urban tech centers where their few remaining offices are located.

    Expect the policy to continue until they start to hurt from the lack of experienced people to execute the little actual work that gets done in the corporation.

    • Re:Big Company Moves (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @01:14PM (#54449505) Homepage

      Expect the policy to continue until they start to hurt from the lack of experienced people to execute the little actual work that gets done in the corporation.

      I suspect that if they don't see the value of teleworkers they'll hurt a lot faster from the "invisible" work that just went missing. I mean you have your written duties, the big stuff that they mostly know about.. but then you have all those little things where something this is wrong/missing/not updated and eventually it turns out Bob used to do that but Bob's not around anymore.

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      IBM hasn't done anything important in quite a few decades. They're simply maintaining large amounts of software they primarily purchased from others and then branding it IBM. SPSS hasn't changed since they purchased it yet they still want thousands of dollars in licensing every year.

    • you don't need that many experienced people to keep an eye on the young'uns. Older people just can't work as hard, and like it or not age related cognitive decline is real.

      Instead of trying to come up with excuses why older employees should work into their 60s+ we should be figuring out what to do with people as their productivity declines. That's a touchy subject though because the only real solution is income redistribution and nobody likes that...
  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @12:54PM (#54449355) Homepage Journal

    Call me back to the office once, shame on you.

    Call me back to the office twice, shame on msmanishHD. [slashdot.org]

  • by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @12:59PM (#54449389) Homepage
    Wasn't this information recently on Slashdot?

    Not that redundancy can't be a good thing. But saving time is also good.
    • If I recall it right, this is the third time. There was a first article about IBM planning to stop using remote work and, a short while later, another one about IBM saying that remote-work was OK for everyone except for them.

      It is kind of curious that such a CEO-ish issue (I mean: abstract decision with a huge impact on the company made by a group of individuals with no actual experience/knowledge, advised by other individuals with a bit of experience/knowledge, who will probably not be held accountable fo
  • Soft Layoff (Score:5, Insightful)

    by netsavior ( 627338 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @12:59PM (#54449401)
    the "soft layoff" is a coward ceo's last line of defense to "rightsize costs"

    As if all the brains hadn't bled away from big blue a generation ago... Anyone left with the ability to work at an actual productive job will quit rather than move.
  • I quit!

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @01:00PM (#54449411) Homepage

    Utter nonsense. None of these types of operations are centralized enough for this to matter. Even if you go into an IBM run facility, your entire team will be spread to the four corners of the earth. Even if you work with people in the same building, those people will be nowhere near you.

    Working in large corporate outfits like this is still effectively telecommuting even if you have to drive into one of their offices.

  • Office space (Score:5, Interesting)

    by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @01:01PM (#54449417)
    When I worked for IBM in the early 90s, we were often required to work from home as the company simply did not have enough desks and facilities to provide for all its staff. After that came a project to "hot desk" people, but that was unpopular and did not achieve any real savings or benefits.

    I presume that they have since realised that there are, in fact, real benefits to having a full team in a single location. And now that they have sacked so many staff, they now have the free space to actually implement the most sensible and efficient (for the company, not the employees) way of getting the most out of their people.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      Except the last time I saw them try this it was a disaster. They chose some out of the way location where no good talent would re-locate to. This client came back to our group after this disaster and after all of the legacy employees with all of the tribal knowledge had been laid off.

      They would have to shuffle all of their teams in order to implement anything like this.

      Not convinced it would actually benefit IBM in the slightest. Although I am sure they think differently.

    • Have you seen a big cubefarm? The chances of two people on the same team being within a few hundred feet of each other are remote.

      • Have you seen a big cubefarm? The chances of two people on the same team being within a few hundred feet of each other are remote.

        It depends on whether the cube farm is set up as flex space or not. A lot of companies are going to unassigned seating with lockers or rollerbags to put your stuff away at night or take it with you. When you arrive in the morning you select an open space. In this type of environment you can sit next to team members through a little bit of coordination, seat saving (i.e. like saving a seat at the movie theater for a friend), or just sitting in the same area every day.

    • Re:Office space (Score:5, Informative)

      by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @01:13PM (#54449491)

      I presume that they have since realised that there are, in fact, real benefits to having a full team in a single location.

      You would think wrong. This mandate started in the second half of last year, and there has been no attempt to move teams that work in different IBM locations together -- or, for that matter, to implement any environment changes that might make having a team all be in the same location useful.

      This is 100% about reducing head count.

    • If you look at the value of of IBM I highly question that anything of 'real benefit' has been done by management in a long time.
      • If you feel your cheeks burning it must mean you finally clicked over on that "max" tab and looked at their current value compared to during the .com boom or any other age.

  • by dmaul99 ( 1895836 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @01:12PM (#54449489)

    This is a good way to get rid of your lifer employees who've settled down into family life and are just coasting, relying on labor laws and the hefty cost of severance to keep their jobs. Call in to a meeting after dropping off the kids here, respond to some emails after picking up the kids there, everything off at 5. Meanwhile you have the productive employees at the office that come to kind of ignore and not expect anything from the wfh crowd. I've been a contractor at several large companies (cisco, yahoo, oracle) and I've seen it. Yes yes you have your rock star wfh employee here and there. But for the most part, the wfh folks might as well not even be on the team you wouldn't notice and everybody resents them because they make more money than them and don't have to come in and they don't do anything. So this sort of policy shift is a good way of getting rid of dead weight without having to pay severance because there's no way a remote coaster can convert to productive office monkey and they know it.

    • I had a sister-in-law who got bought out after a lifetime at IBM and got rehired as a consultant after the dot com bust. She made more money as a consultant than she did as a regular employee for the same kind of work. She took another buyout and retired ten years later.
    • by mbkennel ( 97636 )
      It's a lousy way to get rid of employees who are just coasting, because it doesn't do that and it pisses off the people who are left and demonstrates that the top leadership are incompetent assholes.

      If you want to get rid of employees who are "just coasting", figure out who they are and especially who they aren't, and lay them off, and pay their ****ing severance, and think about who you want to keep and what you want to do with them.

      It's Pirate Ship Captaincy 101: Employees will work well for nice manageme
    • The remote coasters will transition to being office coasters. Then you sill have to fire them or lay them off. The top remote employees will have no trouble in the job market. I don't think that they will just revolt and quit. But if their life is going to be uprooted anyway, they might as well see if there are better offers out there.
    • relying on labor laws and the hefty cost of severance to keep their jobs

      I think you're about 4 decades behind current labor practices.

    • by bmo ( 77928 )

      Meanwhile you have the productive employees at the office




  • I have a radical idea to improve the company!! maybe stop selling everything you have to become a simple "government and big company" service provider (where you repack mostly open source tools with some in house tools)

    yes, those pay big money, but those are only choosing IBM because of the name. New guys, companies, tech people now that IBM is expensive and do not have anything new to offer and bypass then and use open source directly without paying a fortune!

    IBM have so many patents each year , yet IBM st

    • Make things with patents? Don't be silly. The most profitable, wildly successful IBM business strategy is patent trolling. They get the revenue of other companies that make stuff, without doing any of the work -- a sweet deal.

  • I guess someone just wants this to stay in the news churn. Probably for the best, big companies deserve most everything they get when they pull employee/consumer-hostile moves:

    https://tech.slashdot.org/stor... [slashdot.org]
    https://news.slashdot.org/stor... [slashdot.org]
  • Bil Gates and larry Ellison may be tools but they were "good" CEOs. As was Steve Jobs 2.0 ( 1.0 not so much, there was a reason he was fired ). So why are the women we hear about, Fiorina, Meyer, Rommety Whitman... all incompetent.
  • IBM will change the core hours, introduce a mandatory 8am Monday meeting, performance improvement programs, force people to interview for their own jobs.

    Anything that makes the place really shitty to work in so they can jack up the attrition rate. So much cheaper than layoffs even if you end up with all the deadwood that can't find work elsewhere.

  • by LeftCoastThinker ( 4697521 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @01:40PM (#54449703)

    Nothing to see here, just more of the same.

    It is far past time to pass a law that limits CEOs pay to 10x the average pay of their employees in cash and the rest in company stocks that can only be sold 10% per year, requiring CEOs to focus on the long term health and viability of their company, not just short term gains...

    • Won't work. Companies will outsource generic low skill work to other companies through tenders, and then divides the rest of the company into wholly owned subsidiaries. The CEO and his buddies stay in the parent company. The CEO of the parent company, the 'CEO' of each subsidiary, only earns 4 or 5 time more than the lowest paid employee within that company. High fives all around the board room.
  • My theory is, the more that virtualization takes over and sites migrate their uber expensive AIX and HACMP high-availability architecture to RedHat and Oracle Linux, etc., the less relevancy IBM will have in any context.

    In my field there are only a dwindling few Healthcare shops that still use Websphere and have to hire droves of offshore folks to maintain care and feeding of their ESQL WebSphere monstrosity - and when they learn they can do a lot better integration with newer, cheaper and more efficient te

  • If you chance the terms of employment, whether written or implied, most places would require a company to offer a severance package. It could get even worse for IBM. In Canada an employee could go along with the change in employment and then quit later and sue the company for the severance. If this is a way of doing stealth layoffs it's the dumbest way of doing it possible.
  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @02:20PM (#54450051)

    In a lot of places I've worked (never for IBM, but know a lot of people who have...) this was done as a copycat HR thing ("Google and GE do this, so I'm going to propose it at the next board meeting" says the VP of HR.) -- or a cheap way to get rid of high-talent, high-salary workers.

    The first thing is usually just a silly knee-jerk reaction, and is very similar to VPs of IT reading an airline magazine "article" about some buzzwordy technology and suddenly declaring that we're "all-in" on Technology X. The place I work for is very nice to work for job-wise, but often badly copies HR policies that don't really apply to our company. (Our new push to attract hip young Millenials at the expense of everyone else is a perfect example -- comically out of touch with reality and copied word for word from some business rag article about Google.)

    The stealth layoff is more sinister. IBM is famous for offshoring every single job they can in recent years, and arbitrary HR policies like this are less likely to be tolerated by older, talented workers. We have a few fully remote workers, and they earn that privilege because they are _really_ good at what they do. I imagine IBM has a very similar situation, with a small cadre of old-timers who really know what's going on secretly directing the newbies behind the scenes. Older workers with families can't move as easily as some new graduate who can fit all their belongings in their car. Old-school IBM, where people had jobs for life, would have been a different story. Those days, if your company moved you for a new project, you moved because it was a good opportunity and it would increase your salary and/or presence within the company. Now, all employees are treated as disposable and knowledge counts for little.

    I'm sure they have some people milking the work from home thing...you always will, and big companies really do build up a lot of excess staff. This happens a lot with companies that go on acquisition sprees, and people just hide out until the next big clean-out. But in my opinion this will force the few talented US-based workers at IBM out, and allow them to say "See? We can't find anyone willing to work here in the US -- prepare this division for relocation to Bangalore!"

    • People who really want to work being at home don't bother with working from home, they just find a bogus way to go on disability leave.
  • ... that have been assembled from around the world via telecommuting will now all relocate to one office somewhere. Which country gets the office, and which employees have to migrate to a new country?
  • How does a CEO get a pay package like that if the shareholders are irate about it? Isn't it the shareholders that decide to approve the pay package?
    • How does a CEO get a pay package like that if the shareholders are irate about it? Isn't it the shareholders that decide to approve the pay package?

      Nope. It's the Board of Directors. Guess what kind of job all the members of the Board have? Yeah, CEO.

  • It is the IBM environment and procedures for pushing changes. All of the management processes at IBM are specifically designed to slow progress, that is their point. First give the employee a good laptop, load it with two metric tons of security software (slow the pc to a crawl). Don't grant access to any tools without a presidential approval (meaning Trump, not CEO of IBM). Don't grant access to code without approval of congress. Don't allow code changes without UN approval (and expect a Russian veto)

  • Advance to the rear!

    More likely (as others have stated) "please quit."

The best book on programming for the layman is "Alice in Wonderland"; but that's because it's the best book on anything for the layman.