back to article IBM UK: Oh, remote workers. We want to be colocated with you again

IBM is clamping down on its remote workers in Britain, with the Global Technology Services team being centralised in one of a number of as yet unnamed “colocation hubs”. Tosca Colangeli, IBM’s UK veep of GTS, warned employees in a recording, seen by The Register, that a “big feature” of 2017 is a “desire to be colocated …

Silver badge

Cost Savings

How does kitting out new offices and possibly paying relocation save anything?

15
0
Silver badge

Re: Cost Savings

It gets rid of people who are too far away to commute and unwilling to move.

36
0
Silver badge

Re: Cost Savings

What if they are good?

4
0
Bronze badge

Re: Cost Savings

They sink to their level of competence.

3
0
Silver badge

Re: Cost Savings

What if they are good?

Since when has that ever mattered?

45
0

Re: Cost Savings

What if they are good?

If they are good then they will be on higher salaries so extra savings!

37
0

Re: Cost Savings

What if they are good?

Because they are irrelevant to this year's management bonuses. Most likely the shit caused by getting rid of competent staff won't hit the fan until next year (or later) and by then this year's bonus will have been pocketed and new management imperatives unveiled.

26
0
Bronze badge

Re: Cost Savings

It actually has absolutely nothing to do with saving any money. Its about control, and efficiency. See, people who telecommute get up at about 7 or so, have a shower, dress, eat some breakfast, and sit down at their desk at 8 with a tall cup of coffee. They are relaxed, comfortable, and occasionally distracted. People who work in an office, get up at 5:30, shower, get dressed, eat, and get in the car with a tall cup of coffee at about 6:45 to get to the office at 8, stressed from traffic, angry, "enjoying" their colleagues who may have skipped their shower, and distracted every 20 minutes by people wandering by their cubicle to chat, random noises, and other factors.

IBM has developed this idea that, somehow, their successes in the 70s and 80s were because of this centralized, stress-drive culture. Employees spent 3-4 hours per day just going between home and work, and then work and home...thereby lengthening their commitment to their work to 12-13 hours per day, five days a week, instead of just 9. The longer hours necessary also made people eat convenient poor-quality foods, usually from the drive-through at the fast-food eateries, laden with fats and cholesterol. Eventually, the combination of stress due to the slow crawl of traffic faced 10 times per week, combined with the poor diet and lack of exercise led to heart disease, and early death for employees.

For the employer, that was a win-win - middle aged employees would die, leaving large amounts of unvested money in the retirement plan, and opened up jobs for younger employees, with no risk of being sued for age discrimination or payment of expensive severance packages.

Its not really about saving money - its about killing the workers more efficiently.

56
0
Bronze badge

Re: Cost Savings

"What if they are good?"

After 'skills rebalancing exercises' IBM hold 'breakage meetings' to see where they are now breaching SLAs etc after letting too many people go, so if you survived the cut, and your accounts are in the green, expect to be handed a pile of crap to fix. Then, when everything is green, they'll look to sack a few more people again.

8
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Cost Savings

VanguardG: "Its not really about saving money - its about killing the workers more efficiently."

Yes and we know that IBM are past masters of introducing efficiency into killings.

Lets say "they have form"

11
2
Silver badge

Re: Cost Savings

Get a team in the same building, and better yet next to each other, and you will definitely see improved productivity. That 30 minute conference call can be dispensed with in a 2 minute conversation. That misunderstanding ironed out over a brew rather than a flame war.

That said, companies that mandate you can never work from home under any circumstances are just dicks, and you owe it to yourself to find a better job.

7
4
Silver badge

Re: Cost Savings

"What if they are good?"

Management does not recognise any variation in ability when it comes to reducing headcount.

7
0
Silver badge

Re: Cost Savings

@Vanguard, After they have exterminated all the greybeards who actually know a thing or two they will have young'ens who are not even diaper (US terminology) ready. Then they will be another clueless hipster collective masquerading as a company.

8
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Cost Savings

"How does kitting out new offices and possibly paying relocation save anything?"

The people concerned are by definition:

- GTS employees (i.e. consultants).

- Not working from a client site.

- Senior enough to be able to swan around as they please (juniors are most definitely not working from home multiple days per week).

This means they are usually both well paid and at least partially part of the business overhead rather than yielding fees. So you've got two choices. Get onto client sites where you're billable and no one cares. Come into the office where your manager will suddenly start showering you with shit. Or, most likely, get managed out and have your salary hived off to hire eight new apprentices who will all absolutely be working 50 hour weeks by default because they don't know any better. Or, even more likely, get managed out and have your role shifted to india.

6
0

Transformation away from careers

Interesting analysis, but a bit too hyperbolic. In particular, I think that it discounts "respect for the individual", which actually had a relevance era at IBM that lasted much longer than the google's "don't be evil" motto. I don't think IBM ever wanted to kill employees (and doesn't want it now because of the paperwork), but the old IBM did want full-career lifetime commitments, and the IBMers of those days returned the favor with extra and in many cases extraordinary results.

My observations of recent years convince me that they are transforming the company in a different way. The most important data point was the number of new hires: Around 70,000 without growing the company. When you do the math, normal attrition of a long-career company gives a value around 20,000 to 30,000 employees per year, so the "excess attrition" is around 50,000 now. The new pressure on remote workers is just a new target for attrition.

Rather than being a career company, the new IBM will have three groups of employees. There will be a small elite kernel of career people, but most employees will be in two transient groups. One will be fresh hires right out of university, and most of them will be filtered and eliminated within two or three years. They are essentially forced to look at a fairly large number of needles looking for the sharpest ones. The other group will probably be the largest, consisting of short-term contractors brought in to do the actual grunt work for the actual paying customers. Speedy onboarding and offboarding in the new IBM lingo.

As someone whose career was largely associated with IBM and even as a shareholder, the changes bother me a lot. However it's just part of the evolution of our economic system to evil companies that give us only the "freedom" to seek the least evil options.

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Cost Savings

In a normal company I'd agree with you. But most IBMers work with people in other countries. I could go to any UK office and it'd be irrelevant since every colleague is either in US, India or Philippines.

0
0

"Samsung House"

Should this be "Sampson House"? http://www-05.ibm.com/uk/locations/sampson_house.html

2
0
Silver badge

Re: "Samsung House"

Yes - Samsung House is the one with the Smoking Area inside...

18
0
Silver badge
Happy

Re: "Samsung House"

Yes - Samsung House is the one with the Smoking Area inside...

ISWYDT.

Otherwise known as a dedicated place for taking Notes.

4
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: "Samsung House"

Ironically I do recall there being a smoking room in Sampson House several years ago. And a bar. This was back when it was occupied (owned?) by Lloyds. My god it was a 70's dump. I really hope they've refurbished the place since I was last in there.

0
0
Silver badge
Megaphone

"Consolidation in the IBM saw some STG folk centralised to one floor rather than being on four"

At IBM you too can be as productive as a battery hen.

13
0
Silver badge

This is just a way to get rid of people

Laying people off is expensive - redundancy payments etc. It's far cheaper to ratchet up the everyday shitiness level a bit and hope attrition takes care of the situation for you.

27
0
Ogi
Bronze badge

Re: This is just a way to get rid of people

> Laying people off is expensive - redundancy payments etc. It's far cheaper to ratchet up the everyday shitiness level a bit and hope attrition takes care of the situation for you.

I am curious as to how that will work. So you refuse to leave by the deadline, and refuse to quit as well. What can they do? Not sure about the US (where apparently you can be fired for any reason what so ever) but it would be harder to do that in the UK.

Presumably that is why here they didn't set a deadline for you to have to start coming into the office. Which makes me ask the question, what if you just keep delaying? How long could you keep working from home, if there is no deadline to move, and you have no intention of moving. Maybe just keep pushing the "potential timeframe" further and further out.

If you are good the local manager may tolerate it, or if they allow you to come in once a month or something for a general meeting. It might work.

Thing is, those more competent employees are the ones most likely to resist this, or leave. They would have little trouble to find another job, so are more likely to just quit and go elsewhere.

It is the ones with poor competence who will stay, as they are unlikely to find a better job, and consider the hassle of relocating/commuting easier than trying to blag their way into an equivalently paying job somewhere else.

12
0

Re: This is just a way to get rid of people

"I am curious as to how that will work."

You don't want to get rid of everyone at one time. The point of the deadline is to force people's hands - if not everybody wants to - or indeed can - move, you will lose some of your workforce but you need to keep a certain number to actually do the work. Then, in a few months time, when everyone has gotten used to the almost intolerable workload, you lose another group of people who have been ground down over the intervening time - another saving.

At this point, the same workload gets shared between fewer bodies and more become hacked off and leave - another saving.

At this point, the same workload gets shared between fewer bodies and more become hacked off and leave - another saving.

I guess you can work out where this is heading... Plus, you keep attracting youngsters who will work for less pay than their more experienced colleagues which drives costs down still further...

I could go on, but I don't want to give my bosses any more ideas...

9
0
Silver badge

Re: This is just a way to get rid of people

"I am curious as to how that will work. So you refuse to leave by the deadline, and refuse to quit as well. What can they do? Not sure about the US (where apparently you can be fired for any reason what so ever) but it would be harder to do that in the UK."

As far as I'm aware (and I did look into this a while ago when my employer moved offices), as long as there's nothing specific in your employment contract saying you agree to go wherever they send you, in the UK they would have to make you redundant. There's no specific distance specified in employment law covering this situation (the often quoted 30 miles is untrue), but the word 'reasonable' is used a lot to apply to both the employer and employee.

In other words if you are required to travel an extra 10 miles to work and have access to a car and public transport, but refuse to do so, an employment tribuneral would probably say you were not being reasonable and so you would not be eligible for redundancy payments - you would be deemed to have left your job voluntarily. If your employer expected you to travel an extra 150 miles to work however, the tribuneral would probably judge your employer as acting unreasonably, and you would be eligible for a payout.

It also depends on circumstances - if an employee is a disabled single parent who cannot drive for example, and their employer expects them to travel an extra 10 miles to work to an office where there is no public transport, the employer would probably be deemed to be the unreasonable party and would have to pay redundancy (as long as the employee has the minimum employment duration, which I believe is 2 years.)

14
0

Re: Laying people off is expensive - redundancy payments etc

Laying people off need not be expensive, if you've been careful[1] to not offer more than the statutory minimum redundancy payment. Presumably IBM do pay more, however.

[1] other adjectives may apply.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: This is just a way to get rid of people

Easy, they schedule meetings at the office for 8am every day.

Don't want to move, fine but attendance of the meetings is compulsory.

Enjoy your 3am wake up each day.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Laying people off is expensive - redundancy payments etc

IBM do not pay more. Statutory legal minimum payouts. Being applied to the round of redundancies that are currently running.

8
0
Silver badge

Re: This is just a way to get rid of people

And of course not all miles are the same.

I was once not accepted for a (permie) post as the commute was an approx 60 mile drive and their argument was I would be not tempted to stay with them for long as I would not enjoy all that travel / be tired with that amount of commuting.

I told them that my (at that time) sub 20 mile commute (both ways) in lots of dire gridlocked traffic took far longer in "peak times" than the longer mileage, but noticeable shorter journey times to their location at peak times due to it being mainly Mway / A roads that were actually moving at OKish speeds (most of the time) instead of nose to tail gridlock where (sadly brief) periods of exceeding 10 MPH merited a metaphorical round of applause.

I can think of a few commutes near me where adding on a "mere" 10 extra miles would add at least an additional 3 hours total (both ways combined) journey time at "peak" time and probably more, so could be seen as unreasonable when investigated closely

7
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: This is just a way to get rid of people

"I am curious as to how that will work. So you refuse to leave by the deadline, and refuse to quit as well. What can they do? Not sure about the US (where apparently you can be fired for any reason what so ever) but it would be harder to do that in the UK."

Whilst in the UK you cannot be dismissed without reason, you can be disciplined and dismissed for "failing to follow a reasonable instruction".

And yes, you could argue the term "reasonable" in this case, but you would be arguing it AFTER you lose your job, at the tribunal.

2
0
Bronze badge

Re: Laying people off is expensive - redundancy payments etc

IBM used to pay over statutory minimum, but the latest, and previous rounds were at statutory minimum. The latest has a voluntary option at statutory minimum. Why anyone would take that is beyond me, might as well wait until the involuntary scope is announced, and take the extra salary in the meantime.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Laying people off is expensive - redundancy payments etc

From what I've heard, statutory minimum is exactly what they offer.....

1
0
Silver badge

Re: This is just a way to get rid of people

"Easy, they schedule meetings at the office for 8am every day.

Don't want to move, fine but attendance of the meetings is compulsory.

Enjoy your 3am wake up each day."

Constructive dismissal. Tribunal, payout. Next!

2
1
Silver badge

Re: This is just a way to get rid of people

"And of course not all miles are the same."

Reminds me of talking to a German engineer at a conference once. We had been talking about commutes, and he remarked that he currently lived 70km from his job. "How long does that take?" someone asked, and the reply came back "Oh, about 25 minutes."

4
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: This is just a way to get rid of people

"Constructive dismissal. Tribunal, payout. Next!"

Asking someone to be in the office each day isn't constructive dismissal by any stretch of the imagination.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: This is just a way to get rid of people

"Asking someone to be in the office each day isn't constructive dismissal by any stretch of the imagination" -AC

Your imagination might need stretching. One example... you work at a local office which is closed; your employers tell you you now work from home; several years later they insist you attend a much more distant office everyday.

0
0
Silver badge

Marketing tele-script

IBM :- Hello this is IBM can we interest you in a managed cloud based teleworker solution?

Cust :- Ooh that's interesting we've thought of right sizing our office and improving work life\balance

IBM :- Too true, it can save you money and help retain experienced staff with families by reducing long commutes.

Cust :- Sounds good tell me more

IBM :- All your IP can be centralized, secured and accesible to all under control with automatic backups.

Cut :- Great we had a flood from the upstairs office last year; nearly killed our servers

IBM :- It will also allow for a 24/7 presence for colleagues\customers in other time zones

Cust :- Wonderful we have expansion plans. You must really find it a great way to work

IBM :- We don't use it

Cust :- Brrrrrrrr.... Click

29
0
Silver badge

“working space” = your desk

"hubs of colocation" = offices

“new meeting pods” = meeting rooms

“stand-up design thinking” what's wrong with sit down thinking? does standing up make you smarter or come up with better ideas?

Stop it with the buzz words, they are pointless and are not going to make your statement any more exciting.

32
0
Silver badge

> “new meeting pods” = meeting rooms

To be fair, based on meeting "pods" I've seen and been in, "meeting room" doesn't really apply.

Typically, you'll have some traditional meeting rooms (and call them meeting rooms), and then in each large multi-team office you'll have a bunch of pre-fabbed plastic enclosures (about the same size as 4 portaloos) - the pods. And when you're in one, pod definitely feels like the right word

But yeah, the rest of it is shite

8
0
Anonymous Coward

"does standing up make you smarter or come up with better ideas?"

For some reason I can't explain, I do find walking around helps me think. That's one reason I like to work from home. If you get up and start wandering around an open plan office, it looks kind of crazy and it's quite distracting for everyone else.

8
0

“stand-up design thinking” instead of sitting around a table like a committee and talking for hours, you stand arond a white board and pitch in with ideas. The meetings go much more quickly, and you tend to focus on the problem. Post-It notes might be involved.

People don't tend to sit there checking laptops and phones.

It does actually kinda work, but I can't think of a better name for it.

2
0
Silver badge

"Stop it with the buzz words"

IBM should be fined for the amount of bulllshit there

" they are pointless and are not going to make your statement any more exciting."

Basically they are claiming to 'negotiate' on their 'come into the office' rule by renaming the office.

5
0

“stand-up design thinking”

They stand to reason

8
0
Bronze badge

"highly available" - ensuring that you only shoot yourself in one foot at a time. Be patient, you can shoot yourself in the other foot next year....

2
0
Holmes

Stand up design thinking =

We don't have enough space, tables or chairs if nobody quits and they all actually come into the office.......

4
0
Silver badge

"It does actually kinda work"

You mean it's a faster way to produce bullshit?

"but I can't think of a better name for it"

Bovine laxative.

2
0
Silver badge

Stand up meetings

Stand-ups do tend to go quicker; mainly because people are lazy, and want to go back to sitting down. So the usual quibbling over verbiage and violent agreements (two+ people arguing for the same point using different words) happens less often. Also that "last question" that sparks a half-hour discussion/debate doesn't get asked.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

unpopular comment with daytime tv fans

obviously there are exceptions but remote workers sat at home quickly become the biggest loafers in any company.

It only gets a pass because the boss wants some of that action for themselves.

Sales of distant caves and abuse letters to bt about broadband speeds should decline if

fellow behemoths like hp follow ibm.

4
28
Silver badge

Re: unpopular comment with daytime tv fans

"obviously there are exceptions but remote workers sat at home quickly become the biggest loafers in any company."

I used to work from home and while I might take a break I would work far longer hours to compensate. In addition I often found myself on conference calls in the evening with US colleagues because I was the only one around. So in one sense I had less of a presence, in another I had to make my presence more felt.

I doubt this was just me at all. And if you were worried by people slacking off then you're not doing your job as a manager whether they're physically in front of you or not.

27
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: unpopular comment with daytime tv fans

There is an easy answer to this: measure output, not input. If they're getting as much work done as their colleagues in the office, who cares how much Jeremy Kyle they watch.

11
0

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2017