Turning Back the Telecommuting Tide

by jeremy on June 5, 2006

Good piece in the MercuryNews.com on HP’s decision to cut back on telecommuting: “HP believes bringing its information-technology employees together in the office will make them swifter and smarter. The decision shocked HP employees and surprised human resource management experts, who believe telecommuting is still a growing trend.”

Speaking as a telecommuter still in his morning sarong, I’m disappointed. But from a manager’s point of view I can understand. Telecommuting inhibits the natural transfer of skills and experience from the old timers to the newbies: The piece quotes the architect of the HP division’s change, Randy Mott, as saying that by bringing IT employees together to work as teams in offices, the less-experienced employees who aren’t performing well — which there are “a lot of” — can learn how to work more effectively.

Then there’s the problem of folk abusing the telecommuting option:

[O]ne of HP’s former IT managers, who left the company in October, said a few employees abused the flexible work arrangements and could be heard washing dishes or admitted to driving a tractor during conference calls about project updates. The former manager, who declined to be identified because he still has ties with HP, said telecommuting morphed from a strategic tool used to keep exceptional talent into a right that employees claimed.

Shame, because reversing telecommuting in a company that may have attracted better talent because of its telecommuting opportunites is not as easy as HP may think:

By August, almost all of HP’s IT employees will have to work in one of 25 designated offices during most of the week. With many thousands of HP IT employees scattered across 100 sites around the world — from Palo Alto to Dornach, Germany — the new rules require many to move. Those who don’t will be out of work without severance pay, according to several employees affected by the changes.

As one employee tells the paper’s Nicole C. Wong: “I like my flexibility. The only reason I’ve stayed with HP this long is because I’ve been telecommuting.”

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom Raftery June 5, 2006 at 6:31 pm

Hey Jeremy,

don’t know if you saw Bernie Goldbach’s interpretation of this move. Bernie reckons it is a move to squeeze out expensive employees – see http://irish.typepad.com/irisheyes/2006/06/how_to_squeeze_.html

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