Does the future of work mean returning to the office?

Global Business

Does the future of work mean returning to the office?

IBM is changing the way it provides jobs. In the 1990’s the company was a pioneer of telecommuting. But, that’s not stopping IBM from reversing a trend it helped start. Thousands of its employees recently returned to the office, rather than lose their jobs.

CGTN’s Karina Huber takes a look at whether or not its a new trend.

Every morning, 29-year old Mostafa El-Bermawy wakes up, has a cup of coffee and logs on to his computer. Today, it’s in New York, but tomorrow it could be Paris, Hong Kong or Sao Paolo.

El-Bermawy is the head of marketing for Workzone. He and his staff mostly work remotely.

“I travel a lot,” said El-Bermawy. “I’m going to Spain for a month in August and I want to experience these places. I want to live it. So I go and I rent an apartment or a hotel room and I live there for a month or two. So long as I have solid internet connection, I can work from anywhere.”

El-Bermawy said “It’s a healthier form of life.” He says he’s more productive working from home-away from office distractions. He also avoids lengthy commutes and can work when he’s most alert-early in the morning.

Work-remote programs are very popular. They’ve been associated with greater employee satisfaction and productivity. But some companies that helped spearhead this approach are now rethinking it.

IBM, an early adopter of remote worker programs, told thousands of its U.S. telecommuters in May they would have to leave their home offices and return to regional offices. Those that fail to comply will lose their jobs.

Yahoo, Bank of America and Aetna have also scaled back telecommuting in recent years. Big Blue says having everyone in the same room sparks greater innovation. But career coach Roy Cohen isn’t convinced.

“I’m not sure that their argument is legitimate in that you need to all be assembled in one place,” said Career Coach and author Roy Cohen. “You can do it virtually.”

Revenue has been down for 20 consecutive quarters at IBM and some, like Cohen, believe IBM is calling back its telecommuters as a passive way to cut its workforce.

“I would feel as if it were a bait and switch,” said Cohen. It would probably make me upset. I’d be angry. I might be less committed to the success of the organization. I might start looking for another job.”

Some IBM workers feel the same. Some have reportedly quit already and found jobs elsewhere that will keep them at home.

Joe Minarik discusses US workplace trends