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OM in the News: IBM Says No to Home Work

May 22, 2017

“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,” reports The Wall Street Journal (May 19, 2017). The 105-year-old giant is 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.” IBM’s decision is a useful resource when you discuss work schedules in Chapter 10.

The shift is particularly surprising since IBM has been among the business world’s staunchest boosters of remote work, both for itself and its customers. It markets software and services for what it calls “the anytime, anywhere workforce,” and has published numerous studies on the merits of remote work. IBM has boasted that more than 40% of employees worked outside traditional company offices, and just posted a May 4th blog that “telework works.”

IBM may be part of a broader rethink of remote work under way at large companies, as CEOs argue that putting workers in the same physical space hastens the speed of work and sparks innovation. Employers tread a fine line, however, since workers rate flexible-work programs highly, and research has found telecommuters often work more effectively than their cubicle-bound counterparts. (Companies began offering generous remote work policies because they expected large savings in office and real-estate costs, but those savings haven’t always materialized).

IBM workers have been given 30 days to decide whether to move to company-maintained office space that can be hundreds of miles away from their homes. Those unwilling to move were also given 90 days to seek another role within IBM.


Classroom discussion questions:

  1. What are your personal experiences with remote work?
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of teleworking?
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