ICT innovators like Yahoo and IBM struggle with forces of decentralization they’ve unleashed

“Everyone I know is very upset,” says one employee, who like most interviewed asked to remain anonymous while discussing an employer. Some workers furiously began looking for new jobs. Others say they have stopped contributing to long-term projects because they aren’t sure whether they’ll be around in the future. “Source: qz.comThey can say “goodbye” to the best and brightest talent. Iike Yahoo and Best Buy, IBM is in deep trouble. Somehow that seems to create a “circle the wagons” reaction. But the connection between co-location and collaboration or innovation has NOT been proven. Many of the studies often cited in these arguments date back to the early 1990s when working at a distance was much more difficult.

Source: IBM’s recall of remote workers sounds like a death rattle. Say “goodbye” to the best and brightest. – Global Workplace Analytics












This post by Global Workplace Analytics raises an excellent point that calls into question the value of information and communications technology (ICT) that makes collaboration possible without daily co-location and the commuting necessary to support it. It reflects the difficulty that even ICT innovators like IBM and Yahoo have coping with the society altering forces they’ve unleashed that make the commute-in office all but obsolete.

Silicon Valley stuck in the Industrial Age

“I think back to the situation when Yahoo disbanded telecommuting,” Allen says. “Marissa Mayer caught a lot of flak for that. I’ve been doing research on flex-work arrangements and work family issues for many years and knew it was not a panacea for individuals to better manage work and family lives.”Other tech giants, such as Google, have moved away from work-from-home policies in favor of creating sometimes quirky but amenity-rich campuses where employees are likely to strike up conversations, Allen says.

Taking this principle to its logical conclusion, the ideal would be for staff to reside on campus as many did in college. Then there would be time for even more conversation over dinner and breakfast instead of getting onto buses and into cars twice a day in the Bay Area’s notoriously congested freeways to shuttle back and forth to home. But most knowledge and information-based organizations still operate today in the Industrial Age model where their members split their lives between the office and home in a distant community. Is all that time spent commuting really worth the daily face time and opportunity for spontaneous conversation that can also take place with a phone call or teleconference? Or is the opportunity for co-located conversation being offered up as a pretext and justification to hang onto the Industrial Age way of working in centralized commuter offices?

Carol Sladek, a partner and work/life consulting leader at Aon Hewitt, says the journal article shines a light on one of telecommuting’s most difficult aspects: the difficulty in measuring outcomes.

Substitute knowledge work for telecommuting in this sentence and the challenge remains the same. Telecommuting is irrelevant. As suggested elsewhere in the article, the real challenge is managing knowledge workers relative to desired outcomes. That remains the same regardless of where people work.

Source: Human Resource Executive Online | Telecommuting, by the Numbers