back to article Big blues: IBM's remote-worker crackdown is company-wide, including its engineers

IBM is forcing more than just its US marketing staff to move to a handful of regional hubs. The crackdown on remote workers and smaller offices also hits engineers and other staffers in America and Europe. Following The Register's exclusive report that Big Blue will demand marketers work at one of six "strategic" US locations …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's Baffling Me

    "a way to improve the working environment and office culture"

    and just forget about technology R&D altogether!

    Even their lack-luster "Quantum Cloud" offering was a fairly sad joke of a simplex service of little use. IBM/GS is basically a service clone of EDS but without anything useful inside it. I fully expect Watson to sell ice cream out of a fancy truck very soon. THIS is how you "lead the way in making new jobs in Trump's America." Everyone just shift one job over to the left and viola; new jobs! Go USandA! I BM, U BM, we all BM for IBM!

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: It's Baffling Me

      "a way to improve the working environment and office culture"

      and just forget about technology R&D altogether!

      Who told you they have any of that left?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's Baffling Me

      "I fully expect Watson to sell ice cream out of a fancy truck very soon. "

      You're not far off...

    3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: It's Baffling Me

      Well, the important thing here is that the time sheets will be filled out properly.

      1. Nolveys

        Re: It's Baffling Me

        Hello, allthecoolnamesweretaken. What's happening? Uh… we have sort of a problem here. Yeah. You apparently didn't put one of the new cover sheets on your time sheet. Mmmm...yeah, we're putting cover sheets on all of the time sheets before they go out now. Did you see the memo about this? If you could just go ahead and make sure you do that from now on, that will be great. And Uh, I'll go ahead and make sure you get another copy of that memo Mmmm, Ok?

      2. Blank Reg Silver badge

        Re: It's Baffling Me

        Like that's going to help. Apparently, IBM isn't very good any paying people

      3. MaxPeck58

        Re: It's Baffling Me

        ... and have cover sheets! ;-)

      4. Jaybus

        Re: It's Baffling Me

        And that the new coversheets go on all of the TPS reports before they go out.

  2. Steve Aubrey
    Thumb Down

    Improving morale? Eventually

    Maybe in a decade or two. Once anybody who knew one of the "left behind" has retired themselves.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      Re: Improving morale? Eventually

      I'm afraid you don't understand the NewCorporatespeak. By "Improving Morale" the corporate fat-asses mean raising their morale, by "releasing" workers, closing down shops, cutting "unnecessary" expenses...all to artificially (and temporarily) increase the share price so they can cash out.

      Welcome to Trump's Amerika.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Improving morale? Eventually

        I agree with you up to your last statement which is totally irrelevant because this was most probably thought up under Obama.

      2. SundogUK Silver badge

        Re: Improving morale? Eventually

        "Welcome to Trump's Amerika."

        Really? And nobody ever did this kind of thing before Trump was President? Idiot.

      3. AndrewDu

        Re: Improving morale? Eventually

        Actually Trump was complaining loudly about this sort of thing all through his campaign, and promises to "do something" about it. Whether he can or not, (I think not, personally), remains to be seen. It's probably one of the main reasons he was elected.

        But don't let that get in the way of your knee-jerk.

        1. rnturn

          Well, so far...

          "Trump was complaining loudly about this sort of thing all through his campaign, and promises to 'do something' about it."

          ...Trump has been moving in a 180 degree opposite direction from many, if not most, of the promises he made while campaigning. Except for demonizing anything and everything Muslim; he's been all over that.

          That said, let's leave politics out of the discussion... IBM has been at war with its work force going back even farther than even the Obama administration; I saw it happening while an IBM contractor (now former IBM contractor).

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Improving morale? Eventually

        "The beatings will continue until moral improves"

      5. Big Wiggle

        Re: Improving morale? Eventually

        Meg Whitman started doing this at HPE several years ago.

    2. Christoph

      Re: Improving morale? Eventually

      Beatings will continue until morale improves.

  3. inquisitive2014


    I left IBM just over 5 years ago after a 14 year career.

    When I worked there IBM actively promoted remote working as a way of saving money on real estate costs and boasted about the high ratio of workers to office space. They introduced a whole lot of policies that enabled remote working and discouraged office based working with hot-desking policies that removed sense of community and collaboration that used to be generated by ad hoc encounters and meetings.

    A lot us moved out of the office due to these policies - IBM then stood for "I'm By Myself". While it is true that a lot of dedicated folks contributed a lot while working remotely - a friend who was a single mother comes to mind - there were a lot of people who took advantage of the lax oversight from managers who were located thousands of miles away.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Backflip

      I'm sure the active promotion of remote working will be featuring in redundancy claims as the policy is "extended to IBM's operations in Europe". Whereas you may be able to cheaply shed workers in the US with this tactic it's going to be rather more expensive on this side of the pond.

    2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Backflip

      Just had my two year anniversary of freedom,.... and looking at this, I'm so glad. There were just two of us performing the same role, Security and Compliance for UK specific accounts, me in the Midlands, and my colleague in Yorkshire, but we looked after servers based at Warwick and Portsmouth. No idea which office they'd have tried to move us to,.... my closest office was Nottingham, his Thorpe Park, our manager was in Warwick.

      I might venture that trying to force this initiative in the UK would be considered constructive dismissal, IBM will surely have to allow people to choose their nearest office. In my previous situation me being at Notts, and my colleague being in Leeds would add absolutely no value however, as we just wouldn't have any reason to talk to the IBMers on adjacent hotdesks.

      1. behemoth

        Re: Backflip

        I laughed a little when reading your comment about having your "two year anniversary of freedom". I feel exactly the same way. In January I celebrated my four year anniversary of freedom :). I couldn't be happier that I finally, after 12 years, left the dying dinosaur. Now I work for a company that cares about it's employees. We have no eClaim, no report-to-chains spanning five pages, no PBC ratings and no useless middle management.

        But is this really something new? Already when I worked for IBM we used to talk about IBM as "I've Been Moved". IBM has never ever really cared about it's work force. It's just a numbers game for the executives. It doesn't matter that the work force consists of actual people with feelings and lives outside of IBM. The only thing that counts are the stock owners and the stock price.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Taking the piss....

    While working at NetApp we had a Channel Manager who "worked from home" during each school holiday.

    You could not get her on the phone for an entire week.

    Turns out she was babysitting her own children, plus half of the Office and the children of her friend who worked at NetApp competitor Nimble.

    It's that kind of behaviour that prompts employers to reign in staff that take the piss.

    In this particular case though - it was a win-win-win situation. At least she couldn't do any more damage in front of partners during that time.

    1. fajensen

      Re: Taking the piss....

      It's that kind of behaviour that prompts employers to reign in staff that take the piss.

      Eh? No, that is Exactly what NEVER, EVER, happens: Instead of dealing with the problem individuals, those few people who does take the piss are used as the excuse to put the screws onto Everyone, including all the reasonable people who do NOT take the piss. Everyone who ever worked has had at least several experiences with this.

      Maybe this a leftover from the time when employees were "hands"?

      This cowardly behaviour from "leadership" is behind "the immigration problem" too, BTW.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: Taking the piss....

        Right then, detention for the whole class.

        1. Doctor Evil

          Re: Taking the piss....

          I think you're on to something here. It could lead to absolutely revolutionary developments. I mean, without exactly this kind of management response, Pitcairn Island wouldn't have been discovered for many more years.

      2. SundogUK Silver badge

        Re: Taking the piss....

        ? I have absolutely no idea what you are trying to say here.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Taking the piss....

          "? I have absolutely no idea what you are trying to say here."

          Congratulations! We'll get some people under you right away!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What ever happened to technology

    In a world of ever shrinking salaries, flexible working was a meaningful perk to many.

    I worked at IBM near the millennium, it was a fun flexible vibrant place to work then.

    And Govt / Tech execs claim they don't know why more folk don't want to work in IT.

    ....WTF ???

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What ever happened to technology

      'I worked at IBM near the millennium, it was a fun flexible vibrant place to work then.'

      So was Hewlett Packard at that time, and look where they are now!

  6. jake Silver badge

    So IBM has come to the same conclusion that I did about ten years ago.

    That being that working "in the cloud", also known as "centralized computing", also known as "telecommuting" (as in teletype), is, like, totally 1950s technology.

    So we can finally get off the cloud bandwagon, right? It's obviously a failed technology if even IBM can't make it work internally!

    1. theblackhand

      Re: So IBM has come to the same conclusion that I did about ten years ago.

      Maybe IBM could make things work in the past - now they're more interested in giving the task to someone cheaper in the hope that things might work in the short term and that the customers will pay them to not break things (i.e do nothing at all with no people) in the long term.

      Still, they can always bask in the glory of what they did 15+ yeas ago right? Oh - and Watson...

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: So IBM has come to the same conclusion that I did about ten years ago.

      So Itsy Bitsy Morons are incompetent. Where I work there is a push to have as much staff telework part time where possible. Morale and productivity are quite good.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    telecommuting marketing staff

    Telecommuting in the longer term is not productive - I reckon working about 50% of capacity.

    Managers of people cannot telecommute, and staff that fall in to the 'require management' category cannot either.

    Marketing needs no.... i am surprised they let them do it in the first place.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: telecommuting marketing staff

      Some people can handle it, some can't. I've never had a problem with it, and had management that I never met that managed quite effectively. There have to be clear goals and expectations. People can goof off in a big office just as easily. I've seen people in an office who take a half hour on a restroom break. One minute in the restroom, 29 minutes stopping at half a dozen offices/cubicles along the way.

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: telecommuting marketing staff

        I've seen people in an office who take a half hour on a restroom break. One minute in the restroom, 29 minutes stopping at half a dozen offices/cubicles along the way

        (Slightly playing devil's advocate here...) Some people just need face-to-face contact with colleagues, rather than IMs, Emails, etc. On a recent management course, we told encouraged to get off our butts and go and talk to people rather than just send soulless emails.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: telecommuting marketing staff

          The reality is everyone needs a bit of both. The exact proportion depends on the individual and the type of job you're doing. When I was a programmer, and worked in an office, most of the time I was in a world of my own with my headphones on, and could be sitting in a shed in a field and it would have made no difference (as long as the shed had computers and electricity). But it was very useful to be able to get up and walk to someone else's desk to ask a question. Actually, that was at IBM

          Now I work for a small company whose entire UK workforce works remotely. But we do meet up. It has to be done. When I was at IBM I used to try and do this. However, despite living in London, if I turned up at South Bank after 6AM there were no seats left. People who lived far away didn't want to come because they'd have to pay a fortune for travel out of their own pockets, because IBM refused to pay for any "unnecessary" business travel.

          IBM seems to thrive on making bad headlines for itself at the moment.

        2. AlJahom

          Re: telecommuting marketing staff

          Yeah... and when it comes time for them to action your request, they deny all recollection, or they deliver something that is a world away from what you wanted, however clearly you explained what you need.

          You soon realise that 80% of face to face conversations need to be preceded by, or backed up with, the same soulless email you would have sent in the first place, both for reference and for covering your own arse. Ultimately if you have to escalate to the miscreant's manager, you don't have a leg to stand on without an email containing evidence.

          My favourite for those special few is to send an email on a 2 minute delay, with a read receipt, then saunter over to their desk to discuss the request. "Hi could we just review the specs in the email I sent a moment ago? I need to walk you through it" and then watch their mouse finger hesitate as they realise they've been caught by the read receipt and if they click "no" you've seen them do it.

      2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: telecommuting marketing staff

        My experience and my colleagues is that part time telecommuting is the best. You have a good deal of latitude and still have some face time with colleagues and management.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: telecommuting marketing staff

        Our entire company is remote - we neither own nor rent office space anywhere in the world. We all work either from home or clients' offices when on projects.

        You are correct that it doesn't work for everyone, but we are a very specialized group and hire specifically for the skills to be able to work as independently as possible in our new hires. With hipchat, Skype for Business, and many other applications allowing us to work together we can all get shit all around the world (we have people based in the US, Canada, Mexico, Croatia, Serbia, Australia, NZ, and the UK).

        Wasting time and money to go sit in a cube in an office park is a complete deal breaker for me in terms of my career - I put up with being on client sites for a week or two at a time because they pay handsomely for that time and therefore use it wisely.

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: telecommuting marketing staff

      Not everyone's personality is suited to Telecommuting. I'm not sure I'd be so good at it, but others thrive on it.

      If telecommuters are slacking off when at home, it's their managers who are failing in their jobs to manage their staff.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: telecommuting marketing staff

        If telecommuters are slacking off when at home, it's their managers who are failing in their jobs to manage their staff

        When I was telecommuting, I would usually get a days work done in about 3 hours and then I would slack off to not give the game away. Getting the work done and be out of there early to do interesting things is very motivating.

        What managers do not like about telecommuters is the nagging suspicion that their "management" or maybe rather interference, bullshit meetings, annoying colleagues, that good work is only rewarded with more work reduces motivation and efficiency to a significant degree, so, maybe if they were not there, the business would perform much better.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: telecommuting marketing staff

          My experience is similar. Telecommuting makes me more productive in less time. It's a net benefit for everyone, but some people seem to think that because I'm not spending hours warming a seat in some expensive building, then I'm not working.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: telecommuting marketing staff

            I have the same set up at home as I do at work - well, better from a hardware standpoint. If I'm doing development it's nice to be free from random distractions. But I do spend a fair amount of time extracting requirements and information from others, and that goes better face-to-face.

    3. FuzzyWuzzys

      Re: telecommuting marketing staff

      I hate working remotely! I use it when I need British Gas out for example but I just don't really have the discipline required to work remotely. When you're at home you're surrounded by your "toys", consoles, TV, your own computing and electronics projects and of course the fridge and snack cupboard, I get so distracted it takes an incredible amount of will-power to stay focused. I guess I just need to be in the "battary farm" with a manager on the prowl to keep me on track, a bit of in-person domination I guess! Ha ha!

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: telecommuting marketing staff

        When you're at home ... the fridge and snack cupboard

        That's my big downfall with working from home: The call of food.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: telecommuting marketing staff

        We bought a new house early last year, and as a result both my sister and her family and my mum came to visit (which they hadn't done for a few years). Both were visibly surprised and impressed that I got up every day and went to work in my home office and actually did real work. I think their experience of remote working mirrored yours, but I would not consider a job in an office with a commute without at least $100,000 extra to pay for the trouble. I get 2-3x more done in a work day in my home office than in a client or company office.

    4. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: telecommuting marketing staff

      I worked from home, and the work was the work, Security non-compliances were logged via automated tools and manual checks, and assigned deadlines, and tracked. Similarly as OS patches were released, these were tracked in the same database. We had to remediate the non-compliances within the deadlines, and apply the patches within the deadlines, and provide evidence (screenshots, or fresh fresh report showing compliance) and get the tracking records closed. There was no '50%', everything was measured and proof needed for every step, because apart from internal standards, we met ISO 9001, because our customers included banks and govt departments.

      Every process can have such metrics. Hell, this is IBM we are talking about, using LEAN, and GDF methodologies, every step of everything was measured, then at the end of the year comes the PBC process, where we had to justify our performance in several areas and provide evidence, so relied on the data being captured to demonstrate our effectiveness, because if you didn't, you got an unsatisfactory rating, and made the short list for the next skills rebalancing exercise.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: telecommuting marketing staff

        I work from home most of the time, and whilst I agree that it doesn't suit everyone I can definitely say I get more done.

        In fact, the reason I get to work from home so much is that I get a *lot* more done than I do in the office (which can be a double-edged sword though - occupational burn out and all that).

        These days I look at a day in the office as a 'day-off' (in comparison).

    5. lordgodalmighty

      Re: telecommuting marketing staff

      Guess it depends on how you evaluate productivity. Not generalizing and I'm sure not all organizations are the same but when I was working in the US it seemed that staff were assessed on how many hours they spent in the office rather than what they accomplished during that time. Thus plenty of people spent long days doing pretty much nothing. If an employee is given clear and measurable objectives and assessed on how they meet those then what difference does it make where they work from?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Titanic deckchair painting strikes again!

    As it worked so well at Yahoo and HPE!

    Heaven forbid that they actually focus on something that might help their companies....

    Plus good luck finding that extra 40% office space that you now need, especially in such expensive markets as San Francisco.

    1. RonWheeler

      Re: Titanic deckchair painting strikes again!

      Will cost more, but they might get more done. Most [no, not all, most] work from home staff aren't working.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Titanic deckchair painting strikes again!

        Exception, maybe, but I worked with a team out of Poughkeepsie (not one of the core hubs, but the location is vital for maybe the only profitable hardware segment left in IBM), and all I can say is that from the UK, the only time that you could tell that people were remote was if you heard doorbells or pets in the background on the conference calls.

        I and the customer got excellent support, and often it allowed me to talk to the people I needed at stupid-o-clock in the morning their time, and get meaningful help from them, because they had full office setups at their houses. Their responsibility spanned the entire globe, so office hours for them were pretty much non-existent.

        These were committed professionals who were prepared to fire up their systems in the early hours of the morning, give advice, and then go back to bed for an hour or two before getting up to do their normal job. I'm not sure they would have been prepared to get in the car and drive to the office to check out a problem. And they were of a level (senior development engineer or higher) who could not charge overtime or standby!

        It also allowed for the Power HPC team in Poughkeepsie to have a team leader working out of Austin, the home of Power development, so that cross-location collaboration could actually work. (BTW, the Power IH systems were put together by an associated team of Mainframe development in POK using a lot of mainframe technologies like water-cooling and high-density power distribution, rather than Austin).

        I can see this new way of working alienating a huge number of very experienced engineers, to the detriment of IBM as a whole.

      2. fredesmite

        Re: Titanic deckchair painting strikes again!

        BS - my team is distributed and we do quite well No slackers

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Titanic deckchair painting strikes again!

      Apple will soon have a nice building free of staff at 1, Infinite Loop. Ironic that because I think that IBM is stuck in one now. Glad to have called IT a day and retired.

      1. Rainer

        Re: Titanic deckchair painting strikes again!

        > Apple will soon have a nice building free of staff at 1, Infinite Loop.

        No they won't.

        1 Infinite Loop will still be used as an office because they have so many people spread over what are possibly dozens of locations in the bay-area that it's enough to fill the new Spaceship-Campus and 1 Infinite Loop, apparently.

        Just as IBM, Apple does want to keep their staff close.

        The thought of a 2hr+ commute makes me sick, though. Because house-prices in the area are so high that only multi-millionaires can afford them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Titanic deckchair painting strikes again!

      Plus good luck finding that extra 40% office space that you now need, especially in such expensive markets as San Francisco.

      Ha! Absolutely Irrelevant to any American management decision making process!!

      I know of a large US agro-chemical business buying up a Danish business and moving the whole thing to Hörsholm, North of Copenhagen, about the most expensive place in Denmark it is possible to pick and on top of all that it is a water conservation area too, so the regulations placed onto the laboratories will be super-hard. Neighbours are all wealthy, connected, has lawyers and politicians they invite to family things and know by first name - every smell, noise, transport, kerb-space used, grass-trimming, whatever, will be officially complained about by people with much time and resources for this kind of thing. Everybody know this :)

      American managers, in my experience, are for the most part playing management, not actually managing in the normal sense, as a job, having specific goals. They move things around and reorganise, *just* to move things around and reorganise, to show that they personally matter and can "get things done". Their actions has nothing to do with the actual business, only with them. Like kids turning over stones to see the interesting things squirming about for a while, then they need another stone to turn to keep the play going.

      Now one of their kind made US president. Maybe in a while the Americans will see what these people are really made of and perhaps scale their business fetish back a few clicks? Naaaah!

  9. MrDamage Silver badge

    Sure, get rif of the older, more expensive workers

    And all you'll end up doing is get rid of the ones who have a clue on how things work, and how to fix the weird problems that crop up.

    Although I'm sure they'll be more than happy to tele-commute on an adhoc contract at rates that will equate to 1 hours work equals one weeks pay for anyone else.

    1. kmac499

      Re: Sure, get rif of the older, more expensive workers

      Now let's just think this through. The alleged plan is to reduce headcount by enforcing re-location, with the older expensive grown-ups in mind.

      These are the same older experienced grown-ups who are used to tele working with lots of connections inside and outside the company.

      Methinks quite a few competing startups might arise..

    2. theblackhand

      Re: Sure, get rif of the older, more expensive workers

      IBM are one step ahead of you...

      They've alread got rid of most of the experienced people that have a clue in 10+ years of resource actions.

  10. egbegb

    I fondly remember the days when IBM thought working at home was a great idea, both for employees, managers and even a VP in the Software division. I knew they had no clue about teamwork then, and today, they demonstrate no more understanding of teamwork.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ave! True to Ginni!

    I've been at IBM for a while now, and this has been fairly obvious for some time now; Boulder is massive, but pretty much a ghost town. Ricoh leases a few buildings, and there is a ton of datacenter space, but there are entire floors that are either abandoned, or very sparsely populated. If we all get axed / shuffled to Atlanta this summer, I would not be surprised.

    Mandatory telework is pretty soul-crushing the way they run it, but, this is IBM. There are a lot of soul-crushing things happening here. Par for the course. Maybe this place was a fun and vibrant place to be in the past, but we are all kind of waiting for the headsman to come for a visit now. Not very encouraging.

    The fault, dear Ginni, is not in your stars, but in your self.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ave! True to Ginni!

      She looks like a character from Marvel anyway.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ave! True to Ginni!

        This one?

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: Ave! True to Ginni!

          Close... but definitely not a deity...

  12. BongoJoe

    I looked at that picture and thought that I were to work there in that environment that I would be constantly irritated by the chap in the hat.

    Then I thought again that he's perhaps constantly irritated by the fluorescent lighting which seems so prevalent in OfficeDom.

    Poor sods, all of them.

  13. Noonoot

    Pissstakers galore, crap management

    A couple of rotten apples will always spoil it for the rest. A handful taking the piss and not being caught means that management sucks and the company is totally ignorant as to what is going on. Remote working or flexi working is a must for those who are parents with young children or for whatever reason are unable to live near enough to the office.

    Companies that don't want to compromise or go back on what they originally said are simply admitting that they f***ed up and their managers are incompetent.

    Oh and by the way, Ericsson is no better in terms of presence vs absence. But it's not the remote workers taking the piss, it's the ones that work on site: arrive at 10, 2 hour lunch break, go to gym next door, cigarette breaks, leave at 7pm. How many hours do management really think they put in? Come on. And the one that arrives early to leave early and actually WORKS?! That person is frowned upon for "leaving early".

  14. druck Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    First they came for...

    First they came for the marketeers, but no one cared as who knows what they really do.

    Then they came for the sales, but no one cared as they only promise shit we can't deliver.

    Then they came for the techies, and now we are up shit creek.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: First they came for...

      Nonsense, there's plenty of years left in flogging the same old snake oil. Cut R&D to the bone!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem with this kind of move?

    Those that can walk, walk. The people who are most able to walk, most quickly, are usually the people you can least live without.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The consolidation effort, which IBM is pitching as a move to improve productivity, teamwork, and morale, is set to be extended to all IBM operations over the next six months."

    1 out of 3 is not a team they will all hate management I guess. Losing hours in travel works wonders for productivity and we all know that people who are forced to do things they dont like/agree with are going to be way more positive about the company........

  17. Securitymoose

    Obviously downsizing - everything else is flannel.

    Whatever they say, the real reason is to reduce their number of staff. Everything else is flannel. 'Move or leave' is the real message, and the subsequent reduction in staff won't cost them a cent... except in good staff, reputation and employee satisfaction. The people they retain will be the dregs who can't get jobs elsewhere, and also will be disgruntled about being forced to move or have long commutes. Let's hope IBM have some good people outsourced already, otherwise IBM will stand for 'I've Been Mugged' if you happen to be a customer.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Obviously downsizing - everything else is flannel.

      Be interesting if we could find out how many managers suddenly got moved across to the other side of the country before this was announced.

    2. Nifty Silver badge

      Re: Obviously downsizing - everything else is flannel.

      Removing staff is easy anyway, it just costs a certain amount. So what you are really saying is 'to remove staff as quickly as possible'.

      Management should think carefully on this one. Working from home some days per week allows me to field early morning/early evening support calls efficiently.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Obviously downsizing - everything else is flannel.

        But, you being efficient all on your lonesome makes the management of your office location look bad.

        *That* and the consequences if "the higher layers" sees this, is what they will think carefully about. How well the business could maybe be run is somewhat interesting, but what they personally can extract from it now is the important thing to them.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How are the mighty fallen

    Once there was a company that was in the forefront of the computing industry. Now there is a company that is fading into the shadows and will soon be gone. It will struggle for a while but this is the beginning of the end.

  19. Hans 1

    Brexit ?

    Since IBM Portsmouth will relocate to Ireland in the coming years (2), this means that they will have gotten rid of all remoties by then, excellent planning!

    I feel sorry for the poor sods, I work in a home office ... I work longer hours, sure, but I have no traffic and no colleagues lol'ing at the coffee machine or bothering me about GNU knows what ...

  20. Slabfondler

    Old news to some...

    I was a "home" worker for IBM in Canada back in the noughties, just before I left in 2010 they had a "back to the office" push - which was mandatory - show up or lose your job.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd have to quit.

    This would break me. I commute 50 miles a day twice a week to my IBM office as it is, I couldn't do that five days a week. Physically it'd destroy me, financially it would break me. It would triple my fuel costs, push my childcare costs up past the point of affordability and for what? Improving morale? Don't make me laugh.

    ...Fucking hell.

    Posting anon as current IBM employee.

  22. Chris King
  23. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

    Constructive dismissal?

    In the EU (and even in the UK) aren't there rules about this sort of thing?

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: Constructive dismissal?

      I believe that is somewhat dependent on your employment contract. I believe that will to great extent depend on if your contract has a 'mobility clause' and whether the move is considered "reasonable" . A quick glance at seems to agree with that.

  24. Norman Nescio Silver badge

    Teleworking in the office

    I have spent a large proportion of my career working in scattered teams, and teleworking made almost no difference.

    It's all very well talking about teamwork and the ability to interact in an office, but some teams are necessarily scattered - at one point a team I was a member of had members in all continents except Africa and Antarctica. Organising a team audioconference when people were located on the West coast of the USA, the East coast of the USA, the UK, continental Europe, the Middle East, India, Asia, Australia and Japan was a challenge in itself. I think we did it once. Even when confined to the UK, I worked in a team that had members in 5 offices, so all team meetings were audioconferences (we never got videoconferencing to work seamlessly).

    Even if, when teleworking, I went into an office, there was no guarantee that all the people I needed to talk to were in the same office, the same campus, or even the same town. If you need to ring someone up, or send an email to interact with someone, what does it matter it you do it from an office or from home?

    On the other hand, if you depend upon work for social interaction, then teleworking can get quite lonely. Also, if you are in a team where all the other members are confined in one office, and you are the teleworker, it can be tough to stay up to speed with things. You also need to work very hard on keeping good relationships going with people you need: it is very, very easy for them to ignore phone calls, instant messages, and emails from you. Despite these challenges, teleworking can be made to work if you (and others) are professional about it.

    Some managers are happy with teleworking, and work to mitigate the disadvantages. For others, it is outside their comfort zone, and they don't feel in control unless they can see their team when they wish. Then again, a manager who thinks that a manager's job is team control is not ideal in my book: I've always thought that a manager's job is to remove the hurdles that are preventing a team from doing their jobs - I've probably been lucky enough to work (mostly) with teams of experienced individuals who could be trusted to get on with things.

    It's probably another of these swinging pendulum policies: being in favour of teleworking, or not - just like the cyclical swings from centralisation to decentralisation and back again, segmenting an organisation to deal with markets with vertical 'silos' of resource or having horizontal resourcing structures; and other management fads. Unfortunately, such swinging pendulums ruin people's lives.

  25. Steven Guenther

    IBM - great work environment

    Who would not love to come into the office when your spot is on the beanbag chair and working wireless with a laptop? I know my back would love 8 hrs of that.

  26. Duffaboy

    IBM still will not comment on the matter or

    Senior Management can still work from home (Golf Course)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IBM still will not comment on the matter or

      do as I say not do as I do

  27. disgruntled yank


    My mouth was impactful, but then I had the wisdom teeth pulled. Could we set up reeducation camps for corporate PR types who believe that "impactful" is a word?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remember when IBM were relevant

    erm..... No

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Remember when IBM were relevant

      Maybe the last time was before the bonfire of the proprietary Unixes...

      The best example is how many companies use current IBM software, at least in the PC/Unix/AS400 space. I've supported a load of sites that have 5+ year old versions (and usually much older) of IBM software and no plans to upgrade. In many cases, the upgrades have stop because they delivered little more than a better rebranding of an acquired companies software with no real development as the acquired companies staff left the sinking ship.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    remote software engineers have also been cut in Canada

    I know a number of former remote software engineering employees from the Toronto Lab that have now left to work at other companies after receiving the move or quit ultimatum. This is sold as a teamwork building move, but is coupled with round after round of traditional batch firings ("Resource actions" in IBM HR lingo), so everybody knows that this is really a thinly disguised covert offshoring mechanism. How much team building is possible when the moral of those that survive the ax is crushed through observation of how little the company values the most experienced engineers that are the first to be tossed.

  30. Chucke

    Two statements: Working in an office promotes the 9-5 attitude, whereas, working at home the company gets not an 8 hour day, but more like a 10-12 hour day. I was an engineer that worked for a company that allowed the workers to show up at whatever time and go home whenever. They decided that they wanted ALL workers to adhere to the scheduled workday by showing up at 0800. Boy , it didn't take the company one week to find out that was a mistake. We showed up at 0800 and left at 1630 regardless of the status of the work. In the one week trial, rules went back to show up whenever but just get the job done. IBM maybe will recognize the error of their ways and go back to a work force that doesn't watch the clock, has good morale and all th othr things that management espouses as the reason for the move. GOOD LUCK IBM'S.

  31. fredesmite

    " By requiring that workers move to hub cities such as San Francisco, Austin, or New York, IBM could both rid itself of older workers and make the jobs more appealing to younger, lower-salaried professionals. "

    The thought of micro-management in a cube farm is 1980's technology

  32. StheD

    I guess no one here is old enough to remember when IBM stood for "I've Been Moved." Telecommuters who are forced back into the office are not going to have to move, those in now closed regional offices will. Back in the '60s IBM could assume that spouses didn't work and were flexible - not today.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My how things change...

    I was a contractor working remotely (from the Chicago area) with IBM for several years and they were all in on people working remotely at the time. Towards the end of my stint with them (closing out that contract in late '12), they were opening data centers in rural areas -- some would say "depressed" areas -- where there was cheaper labor. I interviewed with a manager at one of those new data centers (in Dubuque, IA) and, while they would have preferred local people, they were at least open to remote work. I later heard from several recruiters that that facility was looking for administrators, technicians, etc. but only locals need apply -- or you'd have to move to IA. With this new mandate for the new shoulder-to-shoulder workplace, I have to wonder how they plan on dealing with those new data centers they built in places like IA. Chicago's not even on the list of acceptable work locations any more and Dubuque surely isn't. Looking for office space in Chicago and its suburbs? Apparently a lot of space will soon be available.

  34. JaitcH
    Thumb Down

    IBM CEO Ginni Rometty . . .

    is a Trump supporter.

    'Nuff said.

  35. bobajob12

    There are good workers, and there are not-so-good workers. That is all

    A muppet in the office is a muppet when they telecommute. These are the people who show up late to conference calls, send you email late on a Sunday night when you asked for it by Friday, who can never seem to get WebEx/Connect/GoToMeeting running on their PC (for the love of God, why??), and who mysteriously never seem to be online in your corporate IM/phone system.

    A star in the office is a star when they telecommute. They manage to do the school run and get to a quiet place to take a call at 9am. They are professionally indistinguishable on conf calls from someone sitting in at office at HQ. They text you if they see something but cant act on it so you are not left hanging for hours. They take time to work at relationships because they know it's hard being a remote worker.

    IBM are absolutely right when they admit that some energy and watercooler effects are lost when everyone telecommutes. But the solution to that is to manage the situation, not to ban it. Fire the muppets and treat the rest with respect. The end.

  36. Flakk

    That video is absolutely precious. It's a video made by marketers, aimed at marketers.

    Does that even work? Didn't the intended audience see right through it? Maybe even mentally notate half-a-dozen improvements that could have been made?

  37. DWRandolph

    Hi, I . . . uh . . . I work from home

    This showed up in my Flipboard feed last week

    911 OPERATOR: 911—what’s your emergency?

    ROBERT: Hi, I . . . uh . . . I work from home.

    OPERATOR: O.K., is anyone else there with you, sir?

    ROBERT: No, I’m alone.

    OPERATOR: And when’s the last time you saw someone else? Was that today?

    ROBERT: Uh, my wife . . . this morning, I guess.


  38. Red Bren

    Working shoulder to shoulder

    Because there's no more office space to accommodate everyone. Perhaps they could introduce bunk desks?

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HP started the same policy

    last year .. went unreported .

    1. Hans 1

      Re: HP started the same policy

      Which HP ?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: HP started the same policy

      It also went unreported that the policy of forcing work into primarily two locations, Newcastle & Erskine, was then used as an excuse for mass redundancies elsewhere. Not in an RDC? Bugger off then.

      IBM staff should be hnder no illusions as to the "logic" behind forcing staff into a few centres.

  40. ps2os2

    IBM office consolidation

    Yikes, IBM sold their d/t building to condo types. I expect we will be seeing IBMers out on the street panhandlingm for office space.

  41. MaxPeck58

    IBM, a technology leader?

    The technology has been making it more and more easy to support a remote workforce and IBM pulls this stunt? Glad I don't work for 'em. I've heard that this is a company on the wane for some time because of recent stupidity and I guess this is the latest move toward a company drifting into irrelevancy.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How does this effect IBM's sales teams? I used to work at IBM in sales. For the large part, in outside sales, people almost never went into the office. My last manager happened to live in the same city that I was in and we met in the office two-three times in the two years I worked for him. I don't even know it it would be possible for all the sales reps, sales engineers, etc to be in the small local office where I live. They wouldn't have the desks.

    There are a lot people in sales, technically, who do not really sell (I was not sure what they did on a day to day). For instance, X industry leader. I wonder if they will be forced to move to another city.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They must aspire to be the foremost disruptive technology company.

  44. AlJahom

    Flexibility is the key, at both ends of the deal.

    There are some very good points made here about the merits and disadvantages of home-working. I agree with those who say that a mix is good, and what that mix looks like depends on your role/project etc.

    I have no doubt that IBM are doing this hamfistedly, and that it will have all sorts of unintended consequences, the vast majority of which will be negative for staff and negative for the organisation, but..

    I work for a company that is very similar to IBM in a lot of ways. As such, I suspect they suffer from many of the problems I experience with remote workers. While some people do take a flexible and responsible attitude to remote working, far far more of them do not. The proportion who won't travel - point blank refuse - even by exception is breathtaking, and while "remote working" they take hours out of the day to do sh1t that has nothing to do with work - and you never get the time back from them. And unless you take the time to keep a journal of their pi$$-taking and episodes of intransigence, there's nothing you can do.

    Meanwhile those of us who have to look the customer in the eye are spending 4 nights a week in a fscking hotel, and taking flights on Monday and Friday.

    These people have no regard for the value in getting the design team together face to face for a project kick off or a monthly review. Never met the team member is who is dealing with the network design that they're so heavily dependent on, or the security and monitoring systems they must integrate with. You end up with 10 designs each containing unresolved assumptions and dependencies that relate to the other 9 designs because the idiots haven't talked to each other.

    And then there are the conference calls. Have you ever had one of those, which is for a structured discussion, where 45 minutes in the hour is dead air? "Bob, you're on mute. Bob? BOB? Is anyone in the same office as Bob?" "Sorry about that, I was talking away on mu... oh hold on, a man's at the front door to deliver a washing machine. I'll just let him in and show him where I need it plumbing in, and make him a cup of tea"

    If those are the problems IBM experience with remote workers, I don't blame them for their new initiative. I'd like to see my lot follow suit.

    Related: In common with IBM, we are awash with coffin-dodgers. And I don't mean those wise old owls who know where the bodies are buried, and can knock up a Cobol patch in their sleep. I mean people - probably in the business prevention department - who have been in place for the last 20+ years, surviving cull after cull, and re-org after re-org without ever adding a single bit of value to the place. Big old companies have lots of places to hide, and that is the only trick in these geezers' toolbags.

    So if IBM are doing this as a way of culling thousands of people who remember when all this was valves (but never knew what a valve was and never cared to ask) then I hope my company does the same thing. The diamonds in the rough can always be spared by exception.

    As for making allowances for people with kids... well sorry but, usually, its those of us without that get the sh1tty end of the stick, sooo.... change is as good as a rest, eh?

  45. Michael Felt

    No size fits all

    My biggest worry about work from home - with colleagues in several timezones: when does the day begin, when does it end.

    My saving grace (I travel, i.e., visit customers 100's to 1000's of km away from home) two to three weeks per month - is that I do not participate in BYOD and I do not have a smartphone. So, no email 24x7.

    If home is the only office - their are risks about maintaining the co-worker feeling.

    So, I cannot walk over to someones desk - but I can always call or skype to be more personal.

    Personally, I fear any company that tries to say "one style fits all" will lose in the long run. Manufacturing may be an exception - but certainly "services" do not not need to be location bound.

    And, yes - I would like to meet up with my colleagues more often. If we all worked out of the same office - that would mean we all had no work to do (our work is providing a service at the customer). Maybe we would meet Monday at the airport lounge :) -- that has actually happened a few times ;)

  46. dr_rick

    Is this IBM's BlackBerry moment?

    About 10 years ago I briefed Gartner on IBM's behalf on IBM's emerging social collaboration tools - at the time, they had largely been developed by employees on their own time as tools to collaborate with their own colleagues - shared bookmarks, corporate micro-blogging, employee homepages etc.

    I remember Gartner telling me that we had a huge edge over Microsoft; not just because of our technology, but because of our culture - Gartner said we were 400,000 people who lived and breathed remote, mobile collaborating and contrasted us to Microsoft's campus-based organisation.

    The world remains mobile, social and flexible. Yes, we are flocking to cities; but we are also working from the coffee shop and the beach, and valuing the flexibility to find a work/life/home balance when we can.

    I knew that BlackBerry had lost if forever when they announced they were abandoning the consumer market in order to concentrate on what they knew best - the enterprise customer. That's possibly the daftest misunderstanding of the role of the SmartPhone in our lives it was possible to make at the time.

    Two of IBM's great strengths were its flexible, boundaryless collaborative culture; and the freedom it gave us to find the most productive work in pattern for ourselves. Just as the rest of the world is embracing those ideas, it's madness for Big Blue to turn its back on them.

  47. pjeanne

    Doesn't Add Up

    I live in Austin and know a lot of IBMer's. Also have family that worked there for many years. All of those cities, except maybe Raleigh, are very expensive and lower paid workers won't be able to afford to live in them. People with two healthy incomes can't afford it. In addition, Austin is encouraging companies to be more flexible, commit to flexible hours, allow telecommuting to help the traffic, and on and on. The idea that there are that many in the younger workers that would not consider telecommuting is odd too. I don't believe it's true across the board because so many are adamant about work-life balance, equal parenting, and other quality of life issues. It will definitely cut the workforce. The rest of it sounds like a smoke screen.

  48. Lion

    Unnecessary Stress

    Thirty days to decide to either stay or leave is not very much time. There is so much to consider - rentals or home pricing in a new city, sale of existing home, cost of breaking a lease if one rents, schools for kids, financial situation, leaving friends, situation with elderly relatives, and the impact on life style. If you decide to leave, a new job might not be at hand within 30 days. Bills have to be paid.

    Counting on a large numbers of older employees to quit is a bit of a misnomer. There are a huge number of people who have no savings and lots of debt. They are living on credit even though they have a well paying job, a house, car, boat, and other toys. These 50+ individuals know that getting a job equivalent or better to what they currently have is almost impossible even if they are highly qualified.

    A workplace with a lot of pent up stress. Now that is a team with a common purpose.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Coffee coffee ... no coffee

    Everyone will be coming into the office for the coffee... oh wait :-)

    1. fredesmite

      Re: Coffee coffee ... no coffee

      No free coffee at IBM sites !

  50. Rathkennamike

    IBM forcing staff to resign

    While I don't know if it applies in the USA they can expects lots of Constructive Dismissal suits in Europe.

  51. RonWheeler

    I ran a Citrix farm.

    20 servers for 100 onsite staff. Always VERY busy.

    2 servers for 80 offsite staff. Usually working-from-home managers. Barely awake. Clock in early, fire off a bunch of urgent emails, then stay disconnected till 10.30 PM when they fire off some more urgent emails cc:ing eveyone in the address list. Working from home is largely a pisstake that nobody talks about. Managers know this because they do it themselves.

  52. JPSC

    It worked so well for Yahoo

    Emulating Marissa Mayer doesn't seem to be much of a recipe for success -- if it's the company's success that matters. I understand that Marissa personally did quite well, as I'm sure we all knew she would.

    The only way this makes sense for the company is if IBM's board and management have decided to pursue a harvesting strategy -- cut costs, reduce investments, maintain high prices for existing customers, and milk the company dry. The most highly-skilled and marketable employees -- probably also the most expensive -- will leave rather than accept the new conditions. But losing your best people is fine as long as you no longer care about long-term customer satisfaction, particularly if your customers are entangled in your products and the cost of leaving you for a competitor (both in actual costs and process) are so high that they have to continue paying license fees for years as they dig themselves out of your products and into replacement products.

    Management and shareholders may end up doing very well with this strategy, but it's not so great for customers and employees.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It worked so well for Yahoo

      Since when did "employees" mean anything to corporate America ? .. they are burdens that can be easily replaced now a days like dry ink cartridges ... there no loyalty to be found any more . I was at IBM in the 1990's when they killed the retirement plan , fired all non-exempt employees and rehired back as contactors the same day ending all future benefits and vacation . That is cold , fkck them the ass IBM I remember .

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It worked so well for Yahoo

      Since when did "employees" mean anything to corporate America ? .. they are burdens that can be easily replaced now a days like dry ink cartridges ... there no loyalty to be found any more . I was at IBM in the 1990's when they killed the retirement plan , fired all non-exempt employees and rehired back as contactors the same day ending all future benefits and vacation . That is cold , fkck them the butthole IBM I remember .

  53. HurdImpropriety

    Smells like Rank and Yank to me

    Having lived through the notorious Rank and Yank at HP (and IBM, Microsoft, Computer Associates, GE, et) . This is yet another way to not "motiivate" employees and is really just a way to cull the HURDS without paying severence.

    So Yahoo did this and now IBM is doing it. Two female CEOs.... Coincidence?

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