IBM is the latest employer calling telecommuters back into the cubicle
Get back to your desk!
One in four Americans works from home regularly – yet some tech companies are dragging employees back into the office.
IBM has been a telecommuting pioneer for decades, yet the tech giant has tasked an unspecified number of its 380,000 staffers to return to regional offices – or leave the company.
IBM cited needing to respond to data and customer feedback in real time for the shift in corporate culture. Tapping someone on the shoulder gets a faster response than sending a text, so the company is bringing small, agile teams in software development and digital marketing together. “The nature of work is changing, which requires new ways of working,” a spokeswoman told Moneyish.
Yahoo! also made headlines in 2013 by reeling its work-from-home employees back into the office with a memo that read, “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.” Bank of America and Best Buy have recently dialed back their telecommuting teams too.
But modern workers don’t want to be stuck at a desk. In fact, more than one-third of employees would choose working from home over getting a raise, and 37% would take a 10% pay cut to telecommute, according to Global Workplace Analytics.
Working-from-home results in happier, more productive employees, per a 2014 study that found telecommuters at one company made 13.5% more calls than in-office staff did. The teleworkers also quit at half the rate, and the company saved $1,900 per employee for nine months on office space and furniture.
“The two-plus stressful hours that most office workers need to deal with commuting on a daily basis can now be productive,” an IBM employee who works remotely told Moneyish on condition of anonymity. “I can also concentrate a lot better at home when I’m in my own zone.”
Teleworkers are also less likely to take sick days, according a 2015 survey. “I always work sick,” said Laura, a 38-year-old work-from-home health insurance employee from New York who declined to give her full name. She rarely even takes time off, since she can multitask household chores while getting her work done.
But research also shows that real face time, or the “water cooler effect,” is key in brainstorming and innovation. Scientists who work in close proximity together produce more highly-cited papers. Unplanned interactions have been shown to get creative juices flowing. And a 2014 Gallup poll found that people who work remotely are more engaged and enthusiastic – if they only work outside the office 20% of the time or less.
But once you’ve given employees the freedom to work from home, they won’t be happy about being called back to the cubicle.
The anonymous IBM employee told Moneyish that if the company had asked him to start reporting to an office, “I would be looking for another job. No question.”
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