IBM and Yahoo say get back in the office but advocates of remote working are adamant it’s the way to go. By Kate Jones
Remote work has been hailed the way of the future, yet leading tech companies are starting to swing away from the trend.
IBM, a pioneer in the work from home movement, is the latest organisation to summon its employees back to the office. The tech giant had allowed its staff to work from home since the 1980s and had long touted the benefits. Between 1995 and 2008, the company said it had reduced its office space by 7 million square metres and sold most of that space of $2.4 million (AUD). By 2007, 40 per cent of IBM’s 400,000 global staff was working remotely.
But in a statement to staff, IBM management said bringing staff to the office would foster more powerful and creative teams. They denied it was a cost-cutting measure.
IBM is not the first big name to reverse its remote work policy. Yahoo axed its work from home program in 2013, with CEO Marissa Mayer copping widespread criticism for the move. Other US-based firms Best Buy and Reddit have also recalled their employees back to the office.
Supporters of traditional office working say pulling employees together results in more collaboration and ultimately, innovation. Yet critics say giving employees the freedom to work where they want allows them to be more productive and engaged.
“Being outside the office is really linked to creativity because you’re not disrupted by that work environment.”
– Ush Dhanak, Collaborate HR
One in three Australians now regularly works from home – a 10 per cent increase in 15 years, according to data from the Australian of Bureau Statistics.
Collaborate HR’s Ush Dhanak says the pros of working from home definitely outweigh the cons.
“There’s the time you’re not spending on travel to and from work – people I’ve spoken to have said they’ve gained up to two-and-a-half hours a day,” she says.
“I think another pro is to be in an environment outside of the office. That’s really linked to creativity because you’re not disrupted by that work environment.
“The biggest benefit is building better relationships with your leader or your manager because there has to be an element of trust if you’re going to be working from home.”
Employees feeling isolated or tempted to procrastinate are downfalls of remote work, but these can be managed, Dhanak says.
“Have expectations, clearly communicate those expectations and have measures in place and also balance it out by making sure they’re still part of the team,” she says.
“They’ve still got to have a touch point for employees and managers.”