IBM’s Mandate to Remote Employees Will Backfire and We All Know It

Published: 2017-05-25

A technology company requiring all its remote employees to relocate to where they can work in a physical office or face termination, well, that seems more like a premise for a The Onion article than reality. However, that is precisely what computer hardware giant IBM is reportedly doing.

IBM, which had once been a champion of facilitating remote employees, is now forcing employees back into offices to facilitate collaboration, as Bloomberg puts it.

[related]For those of us in the integration industry the premise that employees need to be together in an office to collaborate should seem antiquated.

We’ve watched the video collaboration category grow at break-neck speed over the last few years. Some of the most talked about innovations on display at InfoComm 2017, June 14-16, will surely be remote collaboration solutions.

There is a reason why so many manufacturers put so much research and development behind collaboration and it’s because the workplace is evolving:

  • Companies realize that by eliminating geographic restrictions they can recruit the best prospects and allow them to work remotely.
  • Employees’ expectations have changed and many no longer think of work as something that takes place between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. in an office. Instead, it’s something that takes place between dropping the kids off at school and picking them up or after soccer practice, early in the morning and late in the evening. Those employees need to be able to engage effectively.
  • Companies in their recruiting efforts and millennial employees in their job searches realize that requiring a physical presence in the office is restricting, not appealing, and therefore not forward-thinking.

The remote collaboration technology category didn’t emerge out of thin air. It exists because work is done differently in 2017.

Integration firms, meanwhile, have been listening to their customers (who, by the way, have been listening to their employees) and focusing designing systems for physical office spaces that support remote meetings. Some, such as Boston-based Red Thread, have gone so far as to use their own office to create a living, breathing example of a modern office with task-specific work stations and collaboration solutions that help its nomadic staff to thrive.

Again, the remote collaboration technology category didn’t emerge out of thin air. It exists because work is done differently in 2017 than it was done in the past. Microsoft, another IP giant, recognizes this and entered the collaboration category with its Surface Hub which is, in part, distributed through the integration channel.


The workplace will continue to move forward. IBM, obviously, has a right to require employees to come into the office. However, it’s going to affect its ability to recruit young, talented, technology-trained employees.

IBM is a technology company. There was a time when it was the technology company. So what is going on here? Others have their theories.

Meanwhile, the integration industry will charge forward, driving workspace collaboration, a movement that will be rippling through the InfoComm 2017 show floor.

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