IBM: Remote working is awesome -- as long as we're talking about other companies

Confused

Judging by IBM's latest report on remote working, big blue seems to be a vocal advocate of the trend. However, when it comes to its very own employees it would rather they do their work in-house. How does that saying go? "Do as I say, not as I do?"

For the Making Telework, Work: Insights from SIOP 2017 report, IBM has used "perspectives from academia as well as public and private sectors" and found not only that "teleworking works" but also that "associated challenges can be managed with careful planning and communication."

The report lists "three key tips" to make virtual teamwork successful, namely communication, clear objectives and trust, and adds that "those who were able to work remotely to any extent were more engaged, have stronger trust in leadership and much stronger intention to stay" -- all of which "mirror what an IBM Smarter Workforce Institute study found."

So, IBM is not only supporting the idea of remote working through the report, but its own internal assessment validates that, indeed, it is a practice worth pursuing. Yet, the company's recent change of heart paints a different picture, of a company in need to bring people closer, to have better control, not give them more space to do their job.

And that's a problem, because if there is any truth to IBM's report on remote working, its recent decision only reflects poorly on its leadership and risks driving talent away. Up until earlier this year, when it told its staff that they would have to work "shoulder to shoulder" at its physical locations, or find a new job, IBM had actually enabled its workers to do their job remotely.

At the time, IBM said that this was done in order to improve performance against "Microsoft and the West Coast companies," but after seeing this report it looks like IBM either cannot or does not want to heed its own words. It's probably a combination of both but, either way, what its CMO, Michelle Peluso, said at the time shows that, perhaps, the company isn't listening too much to what its employees want.

"There is only one recipe I know for success," said Peluso, before adding that the idea is to bring "great people with the right skills, give them the right tools, give them a mission, make sure they can analyze their results, put them in really creative inspiring locations and set them free." Free as in free at one of the few locations in the country...

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