Return to office or quit, IBM tells managers

Return to office or quit, IBM tells managers

Remote workers, excluding those with specific exemptions, must relocate closer to an IBM office by the beginning of August.

Published on 1st February 2024

Amid mixed reactions to companies attempting to end remote work, IBM has asked all its US managers to return to the office or leave the job, according to a Bloomberg report.

In a memo dated January 16, senior VP John Granger said that all managers based in the US must now report to an office or client location for a minimum of three days each week, irrespective of their current work arrangement.

Remote workers, excluding those with specific exemptions such as medical issues or military service, must relocate closer to an IBM office by the beginning of August. Typically, this involves residing within a 50-mile (approximately 80 kilometers) radius.

The company will utilize badge-in data to evaluate individual attendance. Managers who don’t relocate and are unable to secure a role that’s approved to be remote must “separate from IBM.”

Significantly, this comes after IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said in May last year that the company plans to use AI to replace 7,800 jobs over the next five years. Prior to that, IBM had said it would cut about 3,900 jobs, or 1.5% of its workforce, to reduce costs.

In September, IBM asked employees at its software division to return to the office. Unlike the latest decision to ask US managers, the previous mandate was issued to employees worldwide.

The new mandate arrives amid a backdrop of varying opinions among employees and companies regarding the advantages of discontinuing remote work.

About 90% of companies to end WFH

A recent survey by Resumebuilder showed that 90% of companies plan to stop working from home by the end of 2024. About 24% said they would threaten to fire employees who don’t comply. However, another survey by Envoy showed that 80% of executives regret the initial steps taken to bring employees back to the office.

The Bloomberg report added that despite the implementation of new regulations, office attendance in 2023 exhibited limited growth, as per data provided by Kastle Systems. Within the ten largest business districts in the US, the presence of employees in offices remained at approximately 50% of pre-pandemic levels, with technology-centric regions such as the San Francisco Bay Area recording even lower percentages.

IBM did not respond to detailed email queries.

“IBM is focused on providing a work environment that balances flexibility with the face-to-face interactions that make us more productive, innovative, and better able to serve our clients,” the company told Bloomberg. “Consistent with that approach, we’re requiring executives and people managers in the United States to be in the office at least three days per week.”


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