back to article IBM: Remote working is great! ... For everyone except us

IBM, the company that just weeks ago said it was doing away with its work-from-home policy, is now preaching the benefits of telecommuting to customers. Big Blue's Smarter Workforce Group says a recent panel it hosted at the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) conference concluded that customers who …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    They have read had the new memo from the management yet

    They have not read the new memo from the management yet. They will conform to the party line shortly. Sans the ones that will be fired for refusing to move to the cubicle jungle of course.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is all part of the Client First strategy. I think the idea was improved communication and teamwork.

    I look forward to a future where telecommuting is the norm, where we aren't spending billions on highways and rail infrastructure to move people in and out of the suburbs, where house prices go up where it's nice to live and go down in the city and suburbs because people have the choice to live where they want. Carbon, fossil fuel, climate change..

    Looks like IBM says "No" to progress, to me.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      You'll still be spending billions on highways and rail because all those goods that we are told need to be sold have to be moved from A to B regardless of whether or not people are moving as well.

      That said, I would love to be able to work from home and I don't see why we can't, given the availability of tools like Skype and environments like the Cloud. It's only the managers that are frustrated here because they can't call for useless hour-long meetings where nothing is actually decided except the date of the next meeting.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You'll still be spending billions on highways and rail because all those goods that we are told need to be sold have to be moved from A to B regardless of whether or not people are moving as well.

        I beg to differ. The bulk of rail traffic in the UK is commuters, followed by long distance passengers. On most roads the same applies at times of congestion (outside of those periods it doesn't apply). if you could significantly reduce the extreme temporary system strain of commuting and business travel by meatsacks, the existing road and rail networks would have ample capacity for freight and distribution.

      2. Trigonoceps occipitalis Silver badge

        " useless hour-long meetings "

        Ooh, you were lucky, when ...

        You know the rest.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: " useless hour-long meetings "

          Useless meetings? Must be using 'Agile' then

          telecommute doesn't work well when you hire junior people, though. For senior consultant types? It's probably _IDEAL_.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Skype?! You really don't know much about IBM do you?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Skype?! You really don't know much about IBM do you?"

          Indeed. Any real IBMer knows that you wouldn't use an office product distributed by Microsoft.

          For every Microsoft Office application, there is an equivalent IBM product (usually put out by Lotus) that performs the same function, neither appreciably better nor appreciably worse, but still manages to suck in completely different ways than its Microsoft counterpart. It is exactly like how people can handle the stench of their own farts, but cannot tolerate the aroma of others'.

  3. Oengus

    Lessons from parents

    Don't do as I do. Do as I say.

    It seems that IBM have been taking lessons from my parents.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IBMs relocation plan is a forced redundancy plan on the cheap

    They have no interest in getting people together. It is just a bastard way of firing people whilst blaming it on them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IBMs relocation plan is a forced redundancy plan on the cheap

      In the orginal 'Police Academy' film, the chief of police stops Commandant Lassard from 'weeding out' the undesirables, but instead encourages him and Lieutenant Harris to 'encourage them to quit' on their own. Very, very nearly exactly like this situation really. Except there isn't the bloke making the funny sound effects with his voice. But in any case, it was a visionary motion picture extravaganza, a vision of 2020 corporate location strategy in the mid 80's, masterly showcased by Steve Gutenberg.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IBMs relocation plan is a forced redundancy plan on the cheap

        @nick_rampart:

        Ala "Office Space" where the guy who was way to into his stapler was continually moved to more and more medieval workspaces. :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IBMs relocation plan is a forced redundancy plan on the cheap

      It's called "Freeway Therapy"

      When the US police want to get rid of an officer without firing him they simple reassign him to a station a few hours away from where he lives.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IBMs relocation plan is a forced redundancy plan on the cheap

      Isnt Off-shore remote working?

  5. AMBxx Silver badge

    Looks right to me

    stronger trust in leadership and much stronger intention to stay

    Which is why nobody at IBM believes a thing they're told and everyone is looking for another job.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Looks right to me

      Indeed. And HPE seems to be benefiting most from management stumbling at IBM. And naturally, since managers aren't the ones being walked to the door, it's too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

      1. Yes Me Silver badge

        Re: Looks right to me

        "And HPE seems to be benefiting most from management stumbling at IBM."

        Bit of a shame, since it used to be the other way round.

  6. JimmyPage
    Black Helicopters

    Is it just me, or is this "retro" trend appearing in workplaces ?

    Homeworking being phased out in quite a few companies I know of. Never officially, but mysteriously it's homeworkers that are "redundant" and new positions don't allow for it.

    It's like we are slipping into the 70s.

    I wonder if there's a shadowy cabal of fuel suppliers and car manufacturers behind it - possibly aided by coffee shops ?

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Coffee Shops?

      Er? But...? Aren't coffee shops substitute homes/home offices?

      Hand up, how many here have used a WiFi friendly coffee shop to do some work, work?

      You know the situation when you are working from home and you run out of milk/bread/gin/etc so you pop down to the supermarket and your phone tells you that there is an email that needs answering right now.

      Thankfully, you have your laptop in the car so you get a 'Grande Latte' and settle down and do the work.

      time flie by and you suddenly find that several hours have passed.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Coffee Shops?

        > time flie by and you suddenly find that several hours have passed.

        That often happens to me whenever I lean back in the chair and close my eyes briefly to better concentrate on my response to that important email.

        [Joke icon just in case my employer should ever get the impression that it might happen for real. Which it doesn't. Not at all.]

    2. Peter 26

      Re: Is it just me, or is this "retro" trend appearing in workplaces ?

      There is always resistance to progress. I think it's a sign of a poor CEO, they blame everything on home workers as it wasn't how they succeeded. Where really it's up to them to empower workers giving them meaningful targets to ensure they provide the most for the company and themselves. But that's too much hard work, easier to just say I want bums on seats.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Is it just me, or is this "retro" trend appearing in workplaces ?

        "There is always resistance to progress."
        Regression is more than resistance to progress...

      2. Just An Engineer

        Re: Is it just me, or is this "retro" trend appearing in workplaces ?

        Plus the bodies are not there to Hail Caesar, to massage the Managers Ego. So since this type kind of manager requires this daily, then the home worker is automatically redundant since they are not hear to kiss their @$$. In this case it will also restrict the chances of career advancement, since you were not there to learn to art of @$$ kissing.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Laying off the homeworkers is hardly surprising

          If management has to decide who to get rid of, it is much easier to get rid of anonymous cogs instead of actual people walking down the wall that you know personally. Sure, if done right you get rid of the low performers no matter where they are, but a lot of people who rather avoid conflict and having to see the person you fired boxing up their stuff. Simple human nature.

    3. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Is it just me, or is this "retro" trend appearing in workplaces ?

      "I wonder if there's a shadowy cabal of fuel suppliers and car manufacturers behind it - possibly aided by coffee shops ?"
      Or the knock shops around the corner from the coffee shops?

    4. gv

      Re: Is it just me, or is this "retro" trend appearing in workplaces ?

      I once worked in a development team where the management decided everybody had to be in the office to improve team communication, cooperation and, ultimately, the quality of the deliverables. People started quitting fairly soon afterwards.

    5. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Is it just me, or is this "retro" trend appearing in workplaces ?

      When Woolworth's were tanking, their cry to save the business was 'back to basics', because their comfort zone was the old-fashioned business (i.e. the one that was making them tank).

      I think IBM are hauling people back to the office not just to help them make redundancies, but also because office-work is traditional and non-threatening and understood and comfortable to managers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Devil

        Re: Is it just me, or is this "retro" trend appearing in workplaces ?

        The way IBM is going, the elimination of telecommuting is not so much a back-to-basics focus on improved accountability, but rather a Final Solution style penning up of the excess working population, so that they can be shipped off in the workforce reduction action cattle cars more easily.

        But if an IBM representative comes by trying to sell you infrastructure to enable telecommuting, you should insist on seeing a webinar where a high-profile member of the IBM team talks about how they are using and expanding those same solutions to drive productivity at Big Blue.

        (Yes, I know--Godwin's Law.)

    6. Aitor 1

      Re: Is it just me, or is this "retro" trend appearing in workplaces ?

      Yes de 70s, but more precisely 1870.

  7. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

    Resistance to Homeworking?

    I think a lot of the resistance is from people who have always seen a Corporate Ladder which needs climbing. They have only ever 'worked from home' on days they needed to be there for the plumber/Gas man etc and don't understand that without a lot of the distractions of an office environment (and don't get me started on bloody Open Plan offices to improve teamwork).

    Anyone that has worked at more than a handful of companies has the flexibility to see that there is no 'one size fits all' method for working and that some people shine when they work outside the box while others need the structure (dare I say limitations?) of a traditional office as a comfort zone. Unfortunately very few managers have the freedom to achieve the best fit as they will have pressures from all sides to fit into a common structure

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Resistance to Homeworking?

      I once worked briefly for a relatively small department of a large public sector organisation where noone worked from home. We had a couple of people who arrived every day around 9am, spent about 10 minutes at their desks and then left the office, returning with a sandwich at lunchtime and then absenting themselves for the rest of the afternoon. Everyone in the management chain knew that there was no point assigning them work but was happy to see them continue to be paid. If management is disinterested or incapable, it doesn't really matter where people are located.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IBM owns such beautiful buildings, surely it's a pleasure to work in them.

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Actually, you are not wrong

      I've been inside a few hallowed halls, and i have to say they did themselves proud.

    2. Yes Me Silver badge
      WTF?

      beautiful buildings

      There always used to be rumours of people lost for ever in the corridors of the Somers pyramids.

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    If the conference allowed questions from the rest of the attendees it should have been quite ...interesting.

  10. Ahab Returns

    Good Managers

    Understand that techies are often more productive outside the office. Noise, meetings and general distractions don't make for productive coders in my experience.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Good Managers

      "Noise, meetings and general distractions don't make for productive coders "

      nor do 8AM-5PM "workdays". best work is done some time after 11PM with an adult beverage to keep me company.

  11. mike360

    As someone who runs a start-up I encourage my staff to work from home. Whether 1 or a max of 4 days a week, I switched the whole company over to G Suite (truly excellent set of apps) for this reason. I don't want to pay the crazy parking expenses, I don't want to spend the electricity or any other expenses which I save when people work from home. I know they may do slightly less sometimes but for the most part because they have it cushy they do a damn good job.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Surely they should be able to expense a portion of their electricity / internet / heating bills if required to work from home?

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. kmac499

    One size fits nobody.

    Some of the original 'Work from Home' crew were the senior guys who needed zero distractions so they could finish the report, presentation, sales pitch that had to be done by friday.

    What did work for me was mixed office and home based working. The proportions varying over the lifecycle. In the beginning lots of face to face plan and design time, then more independent time for the development work etc...

    My big gripe as a developer going into an office is that I do some of my most creative work in the shower ( no giggling ) which I can almost immediately turn into code after the short commute downstairs, If I had an hour plus commute to a noisy distracting office that creativity\productivity is gone.

    If you are dumb enough to insist people work solely in an office at least make an effort to provide a productive space.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: One size fits nobody.

      at least make an effort to provide a productive space.

      Like a shower? :p

    2. Blank Reg Silver badge

      Re: One size fits nobody.

      Another problem is that too many of these companies that want butts in seats are also going with open plan offices, which I find are the opposite of productive.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/12/30/google-got-it-wrong-the-open-office-trend-is-destroying-the-workplace/?utm_term=.0763b68f18e4

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: One size fits nobody.

        Open offices are a favourite of non-functional middle management. They don't ever attempt planning themselves : they're entirely engaged in talking to other people. So they love the buzz of a busy office where everyone's talking to their neighbour or on the phone, because it makes them feel as though work is being done. A quiet, empty office feels as though nothing is being done.

        The reverse is actually true for anything except a sales office, but they're not able to grasp that.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: One size fits nobody.

        "also going with open plan offices"

        fish bowls? ew. don't try to do anything CREATIVE in THAT kind of environment, especially when there are people who do phone support nearby. Well, I can manage to tune THEM out, but they'll have a hard time tuning out my occasional frequent outbursts of profanity...

        (I also know this guy who's a decent coder but he constantly talks to himself, and don't interrupt his self-conversation or he'll get angry with you. It's how he thinks. Creative types are sometimes a bit eccentric, need to be left on their own, then everything's ok)

  14. dgc03052

    Of course, perhaps it is more just a subtle form of protest.

  15. Bucky 2

    Except you need competent management

    If you have competent management, and information flows properly through the proper channels, it doesn't really matter where the employees are located. Working from home is as good as anywhere else.

    However, if your manager neither knows nor cares how anything gets accomplished, you have to take it upon yourself to get things done. That involves walking around to other departments and asking people directly whether or not the thing you need from them is ready.

    Of course they have told the manager. That's proper procedure. But the manager is--apparently--having you cleared with the FBI before divulging that vital information. The other possibility is that he is waiting until you're down on your knees begging, because he likes how powerful it makes him feel.

    1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: Except you need competent management

      If you have competent management

      Translation: we're doomed.

  16. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    IBM has totally lost the plot... not that this is really anything new, mind.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ....it's BS

    Most people have + will work from home (as required) with IBM.

  18. prolemmie

    IBM has not lost the plot.

    It has a great strategy, which is to come up with a new strategy every two years.

    Every time the new strategy is launched we are assured this is right strategy and various IT/management consultants are paraded confirming that IBM's latest strategy is great.

    Then we are invited to endless calls or town hall meeting where we are told to believe that this is right strategy.

    The next steps is a massive re-labelling. Projects and products that have taken years to develop and were launched under one of he old strategies, are suddenly part of the new strategy.

    Brilliant.

  19. prolemmie

    Lost the plot?

    IBM has not lost the plot.

    It has a great strategy, which is to come up with a new strategy every two years.

    Every time the new strategy is launched we are assured this is right strategy and various IT/management consultants are paraded confirming that IBM's latest strategy is great.

    Then we are invited to endless calls or town hall meeting where we are told to believe that this is right strategy.

    The next steps is a massive re-labelling. Projects and products that have taken years to develop and were launched under one of he old strategies, are suddenly part of the new strategy.

    Brilliant.

  20. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    This "do as I say, not as I do" thinking is SOP in the computer biz.

    At the dawn of the dot net era I sat through a presentation in which it was shown that buffer overrun vulnerabilities were a thing of the past because of smarts built into the new Visual Studio C# gubbins.

    I asked if Microsoft had used this Mad Science to re-engineer the eagerly-awaited new iteration of Windows (due in a few months).

    If looks could kill I'd have left the presentation in a bucket.

    Last week I sat though a Noracle presentation of their latest and greatest cloud-enhanced enterprise monitoring and management tool. It was dead impressive.

    Right up until someone else (I've learned my lesson and am tired of sitting in the uncooperative corner) asked "Do you use this at Oracle?"

    Of course the answer was "No, not yet". They aren't fools. They want the bugs kicked out before they deploy it.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As per all management bollock speak

    Do not rationalise - you cant

    The idiots are now in charge (source - 1600 Penn Ave) and below

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A bit of comparison

    Apple insists its workers show up for physical work-- a big difference is that Apple pays a premium salary and isn't struggling to stay afloat. A contrast is Yahoo's Marissa Mayer moment insisting everyone stop telecommuting, with who knows what real result since she sold the sods down the river. Her sods got industry average pay so you can only expect industry average work. Heck, slamming industry average workers all into a bull pen probably won't make much of a difference one way or another, there are lots more where those cogs come from.

    From what I hear, hiring is affected at IBM since no one can be hired into a non-core site. The lowly managers who need to actually get the job done aren't truly enforcing the show the face at work edict except for those persons who telecommute from too far away to hide from the HR weenies. In the meantime non-core sites are being down sized to holes in the wall in low rent districts-- perhaps hoping for additional attrition. The stress is certainly showing up as seen in the 20th quarter in a row of revenue decline.

  23. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Do they also insist on shirt, jacket and tie?

    Are winged collars required, or can one use those newfangled forward point turndown ones?

  24. IGnatius T Foobar

    India Business Machines?

    Didn't they used to be a tech company or something?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    calm down, it's not so bad

    I'm going to look at the positive of going back to the office.

    For 17 years, I worked at home. Prior to that, I worked in the office for 13 years.

    The positive thing about going in is to actually have that personal relationship with your team members and to be able to network better. I also lost 6 lbs by just going in (over the 17 years at home, I put on quite a lot of weight, so I'm happy to be losing the lbs).

    The negative thing I'm seeing is loss of productivity because of the sporadic conversations, trips for coffee, full lunch time. At home, I work thru all of that and put in a full 8 hrs.

    The commute isn't so bad - I now put in motivational or learning-based audio books to pass the time.

    Life is how you view it - positive or negative. Look on the bright side and you'll be happier.

    If I wasn't near one of the 6 sites, then I'd have to pound the pavement for a new job. That could have been quite a negative experience and my heart goes out to those that are going thru it.

  26. Rabster

    When I worked for an IBM software lab in the '90s we were offered a change of contract - no fixed hours, no overtime, work where you liked except for scheduled meetings, You agreed what data you'd have something delivered and it was up to you to manage your time. We were told productivity increased and the overtime bill fell off a cliff.

    If I was stuck, I could just logoff, chill, and if inspiration struck in the evening I'd work then. Sometimes I triggered security alerts as I'd work until the wee hours with US labs and then start early again next day to bring the rest of the team up to date. Nearly all my time I was working at my peak,

    And it's been proven over and over how to make programmers efficient. Read Peopleware or get a starter here https://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/economic-intelligence/2013/04/19/how-office-space-affects-company-productivity

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