IBM tells thousands of remote employees to come back to office or find new jobs

IBM tells thousands of remote employees to come back to office or find new jobs
While selling benefits of “telework” to others, IBM forces relocation in stealth layoff.
May 19 2017

IBM, one of the earliest companies to embrace the concept of employees working en masse from home or small satellite offices, has informed thousands of employees that it’s time to return to the mothership—or find a new job. As The Wall Street Journal reports, this week is the deadline for remote employees—who make up as much as 40 percent of IBM’s workforce—to decide whether to move or leave.

IBM once heralded the savings and productivity gains it won from its “Mobility Initiative.” The company has also made untold millions over the past two decades selling software and consulting services, such as its Sametime instant messaging and voice products, to companies looking to support far-flung workforces.

Earlier this month, IBM touted research from IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institutethat found “remote workers… were 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.”

But even as IBM was selling the magic of remote workforces to its customers, the company was dismantling its own “telework” program. In February, IBM CEO Ginny Rometty began rolling back remote working, starting with the company’s marketers. IBM’s chief marketing officer, Michelle Peluso, announced in early February that her division’s employees would have to relocate to one of six “strategic” marketing office locations around the US (Austin, New York City, Atlanta, Cambridge, and Raleigh) or leave the company. That policy has been rolled out over the past three months to other divisions of IBM.

Now, the company has issued a final ultimatum: employees either need to “co-locate” with members of their team, apply for a different job within IBM closer to home, or leave the company. The move is similar to one Marissa Mayer made at Yahoo in 2013—a stealth layoff driven by dire economic circumstances. IBM is facing similar financial challenges as the company’s revenues continue to fall, and the policy move is essentially a way of laying off thousands of employees who can’t afford on their current IBM salaries to move to a major metropolitan area like New York.


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