Just under a year ago, computer manufacturer Dell announced plans to further expand their telecommuting and remote work initiatives. In doing so, they not only pointed to the time and money their employees saved by not having to commute but also the $12 million per year the company was saving in office space costs. Additionally Dell reported that productivity had not been affected negatively at all even as their remote workforce headed toward 50 percent of their total employees. However it now seems that another computer industry giant that had previously embraced a similar philosophy on telecommuting is reversing course in a big way.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, IBM has issued an ultimatum to many of their remote workers: start commuting to a regional office or resign. This decree is surprising for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that as many as 40 percent of the company’s employees worked outside of a traditional office at one point in time. Furthermore the company has even created products for what they dubbed “the anytime, anywhere workforce” — so why the change of heart?
IBM says that bringing their employees back to the office will lead to better collaboration and faster output. This may be surprising considering collaborative tools have only improved in recent years. From various cloud services that allow employees to work on the same document at one time to messaging services like Slack that make it easy for teams to communicate in a quick and organized way, arguing that collaboration is a problem now might strike some as odd. Still, one could easily argue that no amount of instant messaging and video chat compares to the creativity that flows when great minds gather in one room.