IBM Asks Remote Employees to Come Back to Office or Find a New Job

May 26, 20178:46 am502 views

For a company whose known for embracing mobile workings and flexi-work arrangement, this comes as a shock to the industry, the IT-giant recalls remote employees to join back working from office or be ready to quit. One of the biggest employers in North Carolina has issued a 30-day ultimatum to many of its employees who are remote workers, to work from company offices or find a new job.

Spokeswoman for IBM, Laurie Friedman tells The News & Observer that this new policy is not primarily focused on cost-savings, but to introduce a shift to new way of work. While many workers did choose to move into the company office space, Friedman provided no details on the exceptions, those who chose to quit and look for a new job.

Many human resource experts have been critically analyzing the IBM’s shift to new way of work, and expressing concrete opinions on the move saying, it would much harder for the Big Blue to compete with likes of Google and Apple, along with start-ups to especially recruit and retain the best people if such work culture changes are implemented.

Jennifer Glass, the Barbara Bush professor of liberal arts at the Population Research Center, University of Texas told NBC News that this might create a talent problem, for this is something that talented workers and millennials want.

Also, findings by Flexjobs in its recent report do not really show support towards such decisions made by one of the biggest IT giants. The survey stated, 80 percent respondents choose flexibility as a top consideration when accepting a job offer, or entering into freelance contract arrangements, and a third reported quitting jobs if it does not provide the much-needed flexibility.

“People work from home for a lot of different reasons,” Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of said, “including accommodating childcare, eldercare and disabilities. They need it. They don’t just want it.”

Following five years straight of year-over-year quarterly revenue declines, the company executives believe making people work together at their offices and recalling remote workers, could help reverse fortunes.

See: Top 7 Engagement Activities to Boost Collaboration in Virtual Teams

Speaking to investors at a conference last fall, Martin Schroeter, CTO of IBM said, “Bringing back teams together, instead of a spreading out, would make them more agile.”

Sutton Fell however expressed skepticism on this view if bringing back teams together could help fosters performance gains. “It didn’t help Yahoo!” Perhaps this shift of work by IBM could be a way to shed workers without layoffs, but voluntary employee turnover fuelling attrition, thus it would save on costs.

However, back-to-the office shift could only work for IBM if the management is absolutely clear about the benefits employees could gain from working in an office setting, as opposed to remote working – such as access to senior mentorship and training programs, guidance from senior leadership and career progression opportunities.

While IBM is working towards restructuring its work policies and culture, simply bringing in people and expecting them to perform effectively in a crowd situation is not just going to do wonders. This will be one big mistake, as everything will continue to stay the same, except people coming in and working from office spaces, resulting in extra infrastructure and management costs.

If collaboration is the problem, then bringing in people together is probably not the only solution and answer. This has to be addressed directly by the senior management with employees, through open channels of communication. Driving holistic change requires real leadership.

 Also read: CIOs in Singapore Fight Back Against BYOD Security Threats

Feature image credit: Freepik

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