What Does IBM’s Recall of Remote Workers Mean for Your Job?

IBM was a pioneer in the world of remote workers. In the 1980s, IBM created remote terminals in employee homes to allow them to work from home, wherever that home was located. In 2009, when other companies were starting to allow more remote worker positions, 40% of IBM’s workforce was already working from home. In February 2017, however, IBM decided to recall those workers back to the office.


Making IBM More Effective

Much of the motivation for the recall comes from quarter after quarter of declining sales. IBM’s CIO, Jeff Smith, indicated that remote workers made it harder for IBM to have the agility and responsiveness of smaller companies and start-ups. Part of that agility needs to come from leadership on each team, and part of that effectiveness needs to come from each team having a central meeting location.


Why is Remote Work Gaining Popularity?

Working from home is incredibly commonplace today. One quarter of the US workforce works remotely all or most of the time. Chat apps and video-conferencing are more effective than ever, so remote workers can still chat with other workers from the comfort of their own home. Recent studies have demonstrated that remote workers are typically more productive and log more hours than traditional office employees, so the situation is a win-win for most employers.


Why Is IBM Moving Back to the Office?

Productivity and cost savings on office space are two of the largest reasons companies move towards hiring remote workers. What IBM needs right now is innovation and new ideas, not more productivity. IBM sees their largest growth coming from skilled and smart employees working together to develop new thoughts, not individual people working in a bubble.


What Does This Mean for Other Remote Workers?

Unfortunately, there is no concrete answer on what this means for remote workers yet. Depending on the focus of the company and their current needs, some remote workers could stay that way for the rest of their careers, while others should expect to be called back into the office within the next few years. Today’s major players, including Facebook and Google, are making it clear that innovation comes from people working together in a central location, and many other companies will follow suit.


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