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Finally! Media wakes to IBM telling remote workers to head back to office - or quit

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May, 18 2017, 11:02 AM

News broke in February that IBM was going to start making remote workers head back to Big Blue Offices or leave the company. That means change-or-quit for thousands of workers, including an unknown number of Big Blue employees in North Carolina.

The controversial topic has been discussed quite often since then but now The Wall Street Journal has made the mandate a front-page story.

Finally, an important employment story should attract global attention.

In fact, WRAL TechWire's Allan Maurer asked IBM's chief experience officer and general manager of digital experiences in a story WTW published on May 9:

“Bringing people together in a community through technology or a co-location allows unscheduled insights and innovation,” Kevin Eagan said. “It happens when people work close to each other. Some of the highest innovations come from communities such as our campus in the Research Triangle. We recognize the power of concentration and collaboration. We think right now we have the right balance of physically and technologically connected communities.”

And The Register in the U.K. broke the news three months ago, a story that WTW picked up as soon as it broke.

Now, The WSJ is touting the decision as big news.

IT IS. And the story should have been reported widely long before Thursday, May 18.

Laurie Friedman, an IBM spokeswoman told The Journal that Big Blue "has rebuilt design and digital marketing teams to quickly respond to real-time data and customer feedback, collaborations that happen more easily when teams work shoulder-to-shoulder," The Journal says. She noted that the "vast majority" of telecommuters so far have chosen to stay with the company.

The WSJ report

"IBM, a Pioneer of Remote Work, Calls Workers Back to the Office," reads the WSJ headline in a story written by John Simmons.

"The shift is particularly surprising since IBM has been among the business world’s staunchest boosters of remote work, both for itself and its customers," the subhead reads.

IBM's "resource actions" - its term of layoffs - have sliced Big Blue's U.S.-based work force well below 100,000 - a mere shadow of the total a decade ago. RAs have continued this year as Chair and CEO Ginni Rometty reboots the giant.

But 20 straight quarters of declining revenue are increasing pressure on Rometty to turn transformation into profit. Warren Buffett wouldn't have sold much of his IBM stake if he wasn't worried.

Now comes the "office-or-else" mandate and whatever disruption that may cause.

But Rometty and management believe that returning to cubicles will "improve collaboration and accelerate the pace of work," The WSJ says.

Groups hit already, according to The Journal, include the "Watson division, software development, digital marketing, and design—divisions that employ tens of thousands of workers."

How ironic it is that The Journal notes a recent IBM "Smarter Workforce" blog praised remote employment, noting "telework works."

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