IBM Goes Non-Remote

Like Yahoo a few years ago, IBM, an early pioneer of distributed work, is calling workers back to the office.

The shift is particularly surprising since the Armonk, N.Y., company has been among the business world’s staunchest boosters of remote work, both for itself and its customers. IBM markets software and services for what it calls “the anytime, anywhere workforce,” and its researchers have published numerous studies on the merits of remote work.

If “IBM has boasted that more than 40% of employees worked outside traditional company offices” and they currently have 380,000 employees (wow), then that’s 152k people on the market.

As I said when Yahoo did the same, it’s hard to judge this from the outside. A company that was happy about how they’re doing wouldn’t make a shift this big or this suddenly. It’s very possible the way distributed folks were interacting with their in-office teams wasn’t satisfactory, especially if they were forced to use subpar in-house tools like SameTime instead of Zoom or Skype. Yahoo didn’t have the best trajectory after they made a similar move, and hopefully IBM isn’t going to follow the same path.

In the meantime, Automattic and many other companies are hiring. If you aren’t going to work in a company’s headquarters, it is probably safest to work at a company that is fully distributed (no second tier for people not at HQ) rather than be one of a few “remote” people at a centralized company.

4 thoughts on “IBM Goes Non-Remote

  1. I worked for 4 years at IBM and I think the key phrase here is “an early pioneer”. Unlike Automattic, the company wasn’t created on the concept of remote working and, even today, many IBM employees work from offices and, of those that do, many have occasional remote working days (usually Fridays).

    Based on my experience I think, yes, IBM will get more productivity out of many of their staff by bringing them back to the office – not because remote working doesn’t work but because it has to be done properly to do so, with the right management, policy and, yes, even recruiting, in place. Do that and I do believe remote working not only works but is vastly superior to the historic office-working environment.