Remember IBM? The once-great computer giant that has consistently failed to catch on to new trends over the last three decades ( remember when they passed on owning Windows and choose to license it because they thought “it wouldn’t be a big deal”)?
Well, they are doing changes to the way they work - more accurately, they have decided that they need to stuff all of their employees in a box to maximize productivity, sunshine and unicorns. Remote positions have, as of last week, started to be phased out all across IBM. Yes, This affects not only the North-American branch of the company, but the European and Asian branches as well, as reported by The Register.
In the words of Chief Dinosaur Officer Michelle Peluso: "There is something about a team being more powerful, more impactful, more creative, and frankly hopefully having more fun, when they are shoulder to shoulder." Just like in a sweatshop. Because we all know those are super fun for everyone involved!
But seriously, we could be here writing dinosaur jokes all day about a company that is ostensibly run by old fossils. That would be fun, but it wouldn't be productive nor educational - and this blog’s main task is to try and educate. So lets dive a bit deeper into this story and see what IBM is missing here, and what might be the reasons for them to so adamantly start ditching remote workers.
While we don’t and didn’t work with IBM (if we had, they would be 100% remote by now, instead of forging ahead with this silliness) we have enough friends in the field that we’ve heard stuff through the grapevine. Here’s were IBM went wrong:
IBM Will Always Have Remote Workers, Even in the Office
In the words of an anonymous IBM employee: “Many employees will be told to go into an office only to then collaborate remotely with their peers in other cities.”
IBM is a huge company and employees in a certain office will most likely have a big amount of their projects being worked on by people in other regions. They are effectively remote workers, they just have to check in at a physical office and waste company resources while working.
Of course this is extremely beneficial for the ego-driven old-school manager that only feels comfortable with herself when she can peer over a cubicle and see her employees diligently hunched over their keyboards. Which brings us to…
IBM Has A Management Problem
Another IBM employee says: “Here, managers have stopped doing their jobs a long time ago. Workers must find out about what they need to do and who has the right know-how from their peers. Obviously this makes it impossible to work remotely. Top management isn’t about to fix the problem, as it would require them to actually do their work and figure a good work-flow out - it’s just easier on them to force everyone to be in the "office".”
This is a huge issue. This is why we at Distant Job often coach our clients on how to properly integrate remote workers into their work-flow and culture. Remote workers will be more productive and more reliable than a local employee, and they will be like that even while abiding by th same rules, culture and work process, but the tools and methods need to be in place to allow for this.
Is it extra management work? Yes, in the short-term. In the long term, it will save management a lot of headaches, because it delivers both results and stable employees.
It’s Really About PR
In mid-2016, it was widely circled among the tech community that IBM was planning to layoff roughly 14000 people. This is severely at odds with CEO Ginni Rometty’s recent promise to add 25,000 new workers to IBM's ranks.
So this decision is probably more akin to a layoff than a policy change. The internal leak says 30 days to conform, which is not nearly enough time to make such a decision nor have this properly aligned culturally.
What IBM is really trying to do here - shame in them - is to lay people off and sweep it under the rug as “remote workers weren’t good for us”.
In the end, it’s IBM’s loss - they couldn’t adapt to the future of work ,and they will lose some of their best people over it, indubitably.
Which is good news for us, agile companies that embrace remote work and the incredibly talented and motivated people that come with it - our recruitment pool is about to get even bigger and better!
Awesome picture of Steve Jobs via Andy Hertzfield's Google+