Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
IBM IT Technology

IBM: Remote Working Is Great! (For Everyone Except Us) (theregister.co.uk) 109

An anonymous reader writes: 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 work remotely are "more engaged, have stronger trust in leadership and much stronger intention to stay. These findings mirror what an IBM Smarter Workforce Institute study found," the group wrote. "Challenging the modern myths of remote working shares employee research revealing that remote workers are highly engaged, more likely to consider their workplaces as innovative, happier about their job prospects and less stressed than their more traditional, office-bound colleagues." This is posted without any apparent sense of irony, as IBM said just weeks ago that remote workers were not part of its "recipe for success" and could no longer be permitted to work anywhere other than its six regional offices in various techie hubs around the US.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

IBM: Remote Working Is Great! (For Everyone Except Us)

Comments Filter:
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday May 08, 2017 @12:41PM (#54377651) Journal
    I never had trouble finding a job as a programmer until I started looking for remote work.
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      I never had trouble finding a job as a programmer until I started looking for remote work.

      You may have to ask for less money and let them know you are willing to accept less in exchange for being remote. They later may change their mind if you are highly productive.

      Whether remote work is "good" or not can be debated, but it makes many managers uncomfortable.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        but it makes many managers uncomfortable.

        Managing remote workers is often different, and to many that means harder, and the average manager (like the average person) prefers easy.

      • It is a lot harder to find brown nose to suck up to you when your employees are not around hourly

      • by computational super ( 740265 ) on Monday May 08, 2017 @01:29PM (#54378125)

        but it makes many managers uncomfortable

        Yet having remote workers on a different continent, in a different time zone, who don't necessarily speak the same language, is perfectly logical.

        • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Monday May 08, 2017 @01:38PM (#54378229)

          Yet having remote workers on a different continent, in a different time zone, who don't necessarily speak the same language, is perfectly logical.

          Things don't need to be logical these days . . . they just need to be cheaper. The cheapest suggestion, which saves the most operating costs, wins.

          • by tattood ( 855883 )

            Things don't need to be logical these days . . . they just need to be cheaper. The cheapest suggestion, which saves the most operating costs, wins.

            If this were true, then hiring remote people would be more common. By this I mean full time employees, not people supplied by contracting companies.

            I presume the OP was referring to full time work as a software developer, and if your statement was true, then companies should prefer to hire remote people, because you usually pay remote people relative to their location. You can pay someone living in rural Missouri far less than someone living in the Bay Area or New York because the cost of living on M

        • We have remote Australian workers. The language gap is pretty tricky at times, but they do good work.

          Outsourcing is different. First, they're not real workers, you can terminate the contract at any time if it's not working out. Second there's the "5 for the price of 1" deal, so that the CEO forces you to accept them even if you don't want to. Third, the outsourcing firm should be doing the management for you.

        • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

          Because if the price is right, they'll live with discomfort. When hiring "regular" employees, multiple typically apply, and thus managers have a choice of hiring a candidate willing to come in to a desk. If managers are going to accept remote up front, they may figure it's cheaper to get an offshored worker with approximately the same skills.

        • Yet having remote workers on a different continent, in a different time zone, who don't necessarily speak the same language, is perfectly logical.

          Only when you can pay them less than half you would to pay them here

      • The important thing for remote work is to let the boss know that work is being done. It's not remoteness that makes managers uncomfortable, instead the invisibility is the problem. Some people just don't like to communicate what they're working on even to their own boss. At the very least there should be a good status once a week, listing what is accomplished so far, what are the sticking points, and what the plan is for the next week. Even better, report something daily because the boss is being asked ab

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I never had trouble finding a job as a programmer until I started looking for remote work.

      When you work on site, you are competing with your neighbor.
      When you work remote, you are competing with the guy in Mumbai.

    • by djrobxx ( 1095215 ) on Monday May 08, 2017 @12:58PM (#54377815)

      I've worked from home almost my entire 24 year career (about 20 years at home, 4 years doing in-office work). But, every WFH position I've had, including my current one, came out of a previous at-office work relationship, where I'd already established the trust with my superiors that I know what I'm doing, and can be productive without supervision.

      If a company is just "blindly" hiring, they're going to pick someone who will work in-office every time, unless you have an extremely specialized skill set that's tough to find.
       

      • So, you get hired, then after a few months you say, "Hey boss, I'd kind of like to work from home now."
      • If a company is just "blindly" hiring, they're going to pick someone who will work in-office every time, unless you have an extremely specialized skill set that's tough to find.

        Why did Liam Neeson's face pop into my mind when I read this sentence?

  • by erac3rx ( 832099 ) on Monday May 08, 2017 @12:52PM (#54377765)
    ...when you know the real reason for removing their work-from-home policy and asking that everyone go to physical IBM offices.

    They're not doing away with employees working remotely because they don't believe in it, they're doing away with it to encourage their oldest employees to retire or quit. Possibly also to weed out some employees who weren't really doing any work, which happens plenty with any job that offers telecommuting.

    Once their oldest employees who aren't willing to relocate or move to keep their job quit, they'll offer telecommuting to their employees again.
    • by nwaack ( 3482871 )

      Once their oldest employees who aren't willing to relocate or move to keep their job quit, they'll offer telecommuting to their employees again.

      Did one of their VP's tell you this or are you just making stuff up?

      • by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Monday May 08, 2017 @01:04PM (#54377887)

        It's not exactly the first time this type of thing has been done. It's a page out of the HR version of Sun Tzu's The Art of War.

        PetroCanada, for instance, bounced its offices back and forth between Toronto and Calgary a few times (back in the 80s or 90s). Lots of people tried to hang on and lost their shirts on moving expenses because the housing markets happened to be going the opposite way of the moves.

        Companies will sometimes hire an 'axe man' who gives them advice on the best way to get employees to leave for the least possible expense to the corporation. Forcing them to choose between moving and quitting is not uncommon.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Of course, they are more likely to lose their best employees (regardless of age) in this process as those are the ones that can get a local job that is as good or better by this time tomorrow. The ones who will move for the job, esp. if generous relocation is not offered, are likely to be the least employable.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Of course, they are more likely to lose their best employees (regardless of age) in this process as those are the ones that can get a local job that is as good or better by this time tomorrow. The ones who will move for the job, esp. if generous relocation is not offered, are likely to be the least employable.

            IBM has done this before - ask the greybeards about the infamous "intelligence test downsizing" of 1986-87. Stress filtration is a terrible employee selection device. It's strange that companies are all too willing to stress all employees, selectively filtering out the ones with the most marketable skills (the ones most difficult to replace.).

          • by ffkom ( 3519199 )
            Corporations like IBM are not really keen to retain their best employees, they want large amounts of cheap, docile personnel. IBM is not selling lots of stuff because their stuff is great or made by brilliant minds, they sell lots of stuff because masses of mediocre buyers, who are not even skilled enough to determine the quality of the product/service, buy IBM because of their brand name.
        • > Companies will sometimes hire an 'axe man'

          Ah, "Up in the air", with George Clooney. Love that movie!

        • by epine ( 68316 )

          Lots of people tried to hang on and lost their shirts on moving expenses because the housing markets happened to be going the opposite way of the moves.

          Happened to be? Just as PetroCan is shifting shop?

          Housing prices track the revenue base of the community around them, outside of a few exceptional gardens of geriatric Eden.

      • by erac3rx ( 832099 )
        Of course not, I'm just speculating. Should have made that clear in my initial post.

        But isn't it kind of obvious that this policy will have precisely the effect I suggested? It's well-known that they have an aging workforce and people that have worked remotely for years if not decades.

        Asking people with families, kids in school, or folks who are near retirement to move to keep their job is clearly going to have more of an effect on their oldest employees. It's the young, single people or those that de
      • Jeff Smith was just fired. he came up with this co-location (work from office not home) mandate.
      • Apparently erac never heard the old saw that went IBM means "I've Been Moved".

        Or the newer one that says IBM means "I've been replaced by someone overseas".

    • Story about IBM Chairman, President and CEO Ginni Rometty: At IBM's annual meeting last week, shareholders agreed with a proposal to increase her salary more than 60 percent to $33 million. [cnbc.com] (May 5, 2017)

      From the story:

      Her $33 million paycheck this year puts her ahead of tech CEOs like Microsoft's Satya Nadella ($18 million), who is successfully steering the company back towards growth, as well as leaders at fast-growing tech giants like Alphabet's Larry Page ($1), Apple's Tim Cook ($9 million) and Amazon's Jeff Bezos ($2 million).

      Rometty has presided over 20 straight quarters of declining revenue growth.

      Since she became CEO in January 2012, revenue has declined more than 26 percent on a trailing 12-month basis compared to the year before she took over, and net income has fallen nearly 27 percent.
      • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday May 08, 2017 @02:26PM (#54378645) Journal
        In fairness, you would have to pay me a lot more to work for IBM, too.
      • Rometty has presided over 20 straight quarters of declining revenue growth .

        Since she became CEO in January 2012, revenue has declined more than 26 percent on a trailing 12-month basis compared to the year before she took over, and net income has fallen nearly 27 percent.

        Has revenue declined, or has revenue growth declined? For a mature company, declining growth isn't a death knell. Declining revenue is.

        • by haruchai ( 17472 )

          Rometty has presided over 20 straight quarters of declining revenue growth .

          Since she became CEO in January 2012, revenue has declined more than 26 percent on a trailing 12-month basis compared to the year before she took over, and net income has fallen nearly 27 percent.

          Has revenue declined, or has revenue growth declined? For a mature company, declining growth isn't a death knell. Declining revenue is.

          See for yourself at https://ycharts.com/companies/... [ycharts.com]

          Not a pretty picture in any shade of Blue.

          • Stock price is maintained by buying back stock, not by performance. Salaries remain high, but the company is shrinking rapidly, so there is less stock, but less company. IBM is dying, but you wouldn't know it looking as the Nasdaq.

            IBM is basically a software graveyard, much like Computer Associates was, but more upscale. The business model for a software graveyard is as follows: buy a second tier competitor in a business software field that has a large installation base (the first tier will be too expensive

      • you scratch mine. You know they're all on each other's boards, right? Why American is so adverse to recognizing their true ruling class is beyond me. Instead we waste our time worrying about "Big Government" and ignore the biggest government in the world: The Mega Corps.
        • Funny you should mention that. I think I've figured out why that is.

          The greatest threat to democracy and the rule of the people is, and always has been, disparity of power. In the 18th century, when the American War of Independence happened (not actually a revolution, because revolutions are regime changes, and the same people who ran America in 1870 still ran it in 1880), the most powerful people in Europe were the kings and the aristocrats. They were the state (Louis of France said it literally: "I am the

    • Possibly also to weed out some employees who weren't really doing any work, which happens plenty with any job that offers telecommuting.

      Nonsense - the "telecommuting" part of this statement is irrelevant. I've known numerous people, working in-office 100% of the time, who weren't doing much if any work. Whether in office or at home, some people will take advantage of bad management.

      Side note - the worst offender in this regard that I ever worked with is now a state senator here in Washington.

      • by green1 ( 322787 )

        This just in, when your performance metrics are unrelated to employee output, employee output suffers.

        Doesn't matter if it's in the office or remotely, if you aren't paying attention to employee output you're not properly managing your employees, and some of them will chose not to produce any actual value to your company.

        It's easy to manage by the time clock, but it doesn't tell you anything at all about how much value your employee adds.

    • by leonbev ( 111395 )

      Still, this is somewhat confusing. This is coming from the same company that was offering financial incentives TO give up your office and work from home just a few years ago.

      Of course, that might just have been a ploy to get people to make their jobs more easily outsourceable by insuring that they could be done remotely. We are talking about a company that was the inspiration for hundreds of Dilbert cartoons over the years.

  • The real reason (Score:5, Informative)

    by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Monday May 08, 2017 @12:55PM (#54377791)
    This article in The Register [theregister.co.uk] (yea, I know) suggests the real reason behind IBM's decisions:

    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...

    Coincidentally, an internal IBM video distributed to staff, and seen by The Register, advocates working in an office. Funnily enough, it features a lot of young folks...

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Why do they think that requiring workers to move to cities with an exceptionally high cost of living would allow them to lower their salary requirements?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        They're cheap.

        If they TRULY wanted to lower salary requirements, they should move to Smallville, KS. I heard it was a super place to live :)

        • by sconeu ( 64226 )

          It's too expensive for the company (not the employees). Lexcorp has a monopoly on all the real estate there.

      • Because kids don't know better and will share rent 4 ways in a 2 bedroom apartment.

    • This article in The Register [theregister.co.uk] (yea, I know) suggests the real reason behind IBM's decisions:

      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...

      Coincidentally, an internal IBM video distributed to staff, and seen by The Register, advocates working in an office. Funnily enough, it features a lot of young folks...

      And how in the hell are you going to convince those "lower-salaried professionals" to work for slave wages when mandating they move to some of the most expensive places to live in the entire country?

      Talk about fucking shortsighted and ignorant.

      • And how in the hell are you going to convince those "lower-salaried professionals" to work for slave wages when mandating they move to some of the most expensive places to live in the entire country?

        You don't. The idea is to get rid of old workers who've spent 15 years getting the house how they like it and have kids halfway through school of their own volition so it doesn't cost any redundancy payments. Then they pick up some new fresh grads with 733t p13rc1ngs at the new location.

        That or ship it all

      • You'll note that those reasons are conjecture on the part of the article, but they do have some interesting thoughts on why IBM might be making the changes.
    • Anyone still working at Big Blue is a fool! Anyone worth a damn left 10 years ago. I would not recommend them to any young workers, as it sucks.
  • by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Monday May 08, 2017 @01:19PM (#54378029)

    Do as we say, not as we do. Because we have some great software to sell your telecommuting workforce.

  • Big Blue WFH Policy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cogeek ( 2425448 ) on Monday May 08, 2017 @01:20PM (#54378043)
    During my time at Big Blue, we asked to be allowed to work from home one day per week. We were told that if we were saying our jobs could be done from any location that we needed to keep in mind that our jobs could be done from ANY location. At that point our entire team agreed that our jobs required us being at our desk 5-7 days a week. Go Big Blue!
    • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 ) on Monday May 08, 2017 @01:37PM (#54378217)

      A job workable from anywhere is not synonymous with a job workable by anyone. The more companies that think otherwise, the more companies will slowly fail.

      • by Junta ( 36770 )

        That's true, but also, a job that can find 20% opportunity to work remote still means you are working 80% there. So even if you can't overcome the misconception that you can just boil down everything to a math problem of headcount and one human is the same as any other human, you can point out that the vast majority of time is local.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      > We were told that if we were saying our jobs could be done from any location that we needed to keep in mind that our jobs could be done from ANY location.

      The motivation behind the answer is a little unclear. If the answer came from HR or up high in the corporate hierarchy, it was a threat to the get team to back off. If it came from mid-level management, it could be that the manager in charge was sensing a vulnerability in the team to being cut, and tried not to give upper management ideas.

    • by Tesen ( 858022 )

      During my time at Big Blue, we asked to be allowed to work from home one day per week. We were told that if we were saying our jobs could be done from any location that we needed to keep in mind that our jobs could be done from ANY location. At that point our entire team agreed that our jobs required us being at our desk 5-7 days a week. Go Big Blue!

      At which time, I would have told them "Aboslutely! I am working from home all the time! thanks for pointing out I do not need to sit in the office."

      You gave up something because you were scared of a job loss. Did you learn from this experience?

      • by cogeek ( 2425448 )
        Yes, I learned that shortly after I left my entire department was outsourced to India and Pakistan. We delayed what was already coming down the pipe for a few months, but the writing was on the wall. It's not paranoia if what you fear actually happens.
  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Monday May 08, 2017 @01:33PM (#54378163)

    . . . they spent the last decade closing smaller sites world-wide, and consolidating everything in giga-sites. Part of this action was changing the office space into "e-workplaces" or "flexible offices". This basically meant tearing out the cubicle dividers, leaving a big full-floor room filled with just empty desks.

    Employees get a locker room type closet with a trolley suitcase like thingy to stash all their junk that workers usually leave on their desks. IBM employees are not allowed to leave any items on the desk, since it is not their desk. Every morning they play "musical chairs" and everyone tries to grab a desk in a good position. If you are a programmer and need to concentrate in silence . . . and a salesperson sits down next to you doing "LOC = Lines Of Calls" instead of "LOC = Lines Of Code" like you . . . well, that is just tough shit for you.

    IBM managers know that this is a stupid idea, but the goal was to save money, and that trumps everything. So they tried to sweeten the deal a bit by letting folks work at home. Basically, IBM has outsourced its office space building services to its employees. Well, guess what . . . if you can't at least put a picture of your wife and kids on your desk . . . you don't get "attached" to your "place of work". You also don't feel very much attached to the company either . . . so guess what that does to turnover rates.

    So now, IBM wants to lure its employees back to work at IBM locations. But too many don't even have an office to go back to. If IBM wants to haul them back in, all they need to do is give their employees real offices to go back to.

    These IBM e-places are just as pleasant to visit as a trip to Dachau: very loud, greying chipped concrete colored paint, rickety desks and chairs that make IKEA furniture look like luxury items.

    Of course, they can always threaten to fire the employees, if they don't come back. Which is probably going to happen, since even Warren Buffet threw in the towel, and declared IBM to be a basket case. They desperately need another Lou Gerstner, to turn them back around again.

    • The last CEO planned to peak IBM revenue. He sold this plan to the board and worked it into the very blood of IBM, what he didn't tell them that he wasn't just going to peak revenue but that it was genuinely going to peak and then start to decline. He create hostile work policies to ensure high turn over rates and now they are trying to drive all the older people away, you know the ones with all the institutional knowledge that create the backbone of knowledge that brings them customers and replace them all

    • "So they tried to sweeten the deal a bit by letting folks work at home."

      Except even this isn't really a sweetener. Having a consistent fraction of working form home each day allows overbooking the desks. I.E. if on average each employee works from home one day per week, an office can be assigned a desk count that is 80% of the assigned employee count. Then you get to discover that wildly different distributions can have the same average, as my previous employer did.

    • by Doke ( 23992 )
      That sounds horribly like the US government programming sweatshop in Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. That was supposed to be a dystopian warning, not a how-to guide. I hope they don't regulate the toilet paper too.
  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday May 08, 2017 @01:51PM (#54378361) Journal
    IBM is no doubt just doing this in America and maybe Europe. They are hoping to gut the western employees. That is why I no longer even consider an IBM product or service.
  • If your goal is employee retention and attracting talent, then flexibility on remote work is a valuable perk. This is pretty much the entirety of what is being said, that the *employees* like being able to work remote (which of *course* we do, we like more options)

    If your goal is assuring your team is the most effective, and you have little to no concern about labor shortage or retention, then an employee who can work in the office at least *some* of the time is invaluable.

    Doing meetings remote can work ok

  • Typical big corporation. Probably a couple big paying customers complained so they decided to capitulate.
    The same thing has happened in my office. We had work from home policy. One customer visited the office and said "how can you get anything done with no one here". The policy was reversed. No consideration for the benefits of work from home or justification that we got at least as much done (if not more). Customer says!
    Tripping over dimes to pick up nickels.
  • by Seven Spirals ( 4924941 ) on Monday May 08, 2017 @04:15PM (#54379533)
    I worked at IBM for about four years from 2000-2004. I have friends that just left about a year ago. They had begun the India-shift at that time already, but didn't have any W@H policy. The key thing to understand about IBM is that it's like a small city. They have more than 300,000 employees world wide. Like all cities there are good and bad parts of town. You work at Watson? Okay that's upscale. You work for IBM Global Services as a NOC engineer, sysadmin, or Java dev? That's the slums. If you work for IBM "true blue" you'd probably have an easier time W@H in the past than a red-headed stepchild working at IBM Global Services. The clients in IBM GS are the table pounding types and mostly in financial industries. They'd just have to complain to the sales reps that they heard a dog in the background of a con-call and W@H ends for everyone. I saw incidents occur like that while at IBM. You can also bet your ass that the Ph.D researchers at Watson who have any W@H privs are keeping them. IBM was always scared shitless to upset that apple cart. When I used to do security scans at IBM, those guys would always get a pass, no matter what. Bottom line: it's where you are at in IBM that will ultimately matter, I promise.
  • If you can do the job from home, then so can a team in India working for 1/10 the price. Remote working is a job killer, avoid at all costs.
  • Working for big blue some commenters are quite right if you add "in pockets" or areas like we add in bed on fortune cookies. It's so big and so many divisions. We have some strong NA people and they care, but a lot of upside down pyramid and thin investment into a lot of things. But I work remotely and unless in services options are restricted now. But even though I might need to change jobs or cities eventually there are areas where the remote spread combined with poor tools and processes and poor manageme

"Marriage is low down, but you spend the rest of your life paying for it." -- Baskins

Working...