Too Much Free Time

by Mike Masnick

Telecommuting Pendulum Swinging Back In The Other Direction?

from the management-fads dept

One of the more amusing things to watch in the business world is how management fads swing back and forth like a pendulum. It appears that just as telecommuting was becoming a lot more popular, leading to buzzwords like homeshoring, some are already moving in the other direction. HP, who was one of the first big companies to promote more flexible work rules is apparently cutting back on telecommuting for their IT staff, claiming that too many people were abusing it and workers are more productive when together. This is pretty much the complete opposite of competitor Sun, which has tried to get as many people as possible to telecommute (apparently 83% of their IT staff now are telecommuters). Both approaches seem a bit extreme. Telecommuting, by itself, is neither good nor bad. It certainly can be abused -- but allowing people to work from home can have tremendous advantages as well. Rather than declaring it completely a good thing or bad thing, it would seem to make sense to have a more balanced approach that looks at the different situations of different employees to see when it makes sense and when it doesn't. Of course, a balanced approach doesn't sell well when it comes to promoting the latest management fad.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    TeleTubbie, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 1:42pm

    Freedom leads to abuse

    It's the ago old story of how people tend to abuse their freedom. Telecomuting is good in many ways. The problem is that a lot of telecomuters will start abusing their freedom after a while, which leads to what we see at HP now. I guess it's human nature...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    acousticiris, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 1:47pm

    Managing by numbers, not by people.

    When managers react to circumstances by looking entirely at the balance sheet, mistakes like these are made.

    With offshoring/telecommuting, managers saw the immediate cost savings of such an idea and failed to look at the people and circumstances involved.

    This is akin to deciding you're going to cut your grocery bill by taking your previous receipt and randomly crossing out items until you reach your goal. You might spend less, but that's not the goal. You can spend less by buying less food, but you'll still need to eat. Instead, researching your receipt and finding places where you can substitute choices with less expensive choices without sacrificing the over-all quality is how the problem should be approached.

    Plot out your department's productivity and set goals to improve it. Use telecommuting/offshoring as a tool to assist "where it fits" based on staff and job factors and you'll have a finer tuned department and "get more for less".
    And remember that productivity is a wholistic measurement of the quality of work, not a singular measurement of an arbitrary quantity (like lines of code, phone calls answered, or ... comments posted).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    anonymous coward, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 1:53pm

    this is an unofficial layoff. how do you get half of your staff to quit? make their lives fucking miserable.

    as usual, the half that leaves is the talented/motivated half. the half that will stay will be the bottom of the barrel. expect HP's MIS team to really start sucking ass...

    by the way, anyone with exec background at W-M and Dell would hardly be considered an "employee advocate". Those employees are probably lucky they aren't motivated by cattle prod or electrodes to the scrotum.

    clearly the sign of a corporation well past its prime and on slippery slope to obsolescence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Cary, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 2:33pm


    Not everyone is capable of being productive in a telecommuting environment. I was much more productive from home than in the office. Part of the loss in office time productivity was due to the "wish I was at home" syndrome, where you do less because you hate being in the office.

    Some people just can't commit their time to work productively when they are at home, though. That is where the corporations started thinking telecommuting isn't such a good idea. I think that it has to be evaluated on a person-by-person basis, not on a blanket policy. Not everyone likes walnuts in their brownies (like me).

    If I don't have to have an office, with the computer, network, phone, heating/cooling/lights, lunchroom, bathroom, parking,...., and I get just as much done as someone that does need an office, why should the company fork out that money for all the things that they need to provide in the office just to "have me in the office?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 2:34pm


    I have to agree. Having seen other management initiatives with the exact same goal. This is not about telecommuting going away. This is about forcing people to leave high cost areas (Palo Alto,etc) with long commutes so HP can pay them less. Like AC said 'make their lives fucking miserable' and save HP some money. Oh, and if employees do decide to 'voluntarily' move, expect little in the way of relocation expenses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    DittoBox, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Freedom leads to abuse

    Good ol' Wallie eh?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    achacha, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 2:45pm

    I will accept a 10% paycut if I can move out of the bay area and telecommute to work... this place is insanely overpriced and living here you are a slave to real estate prices and cost of living.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 6:25pm

    my mommy doesn't agree.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Constance Reader, Jun 6th, 2006 @ 1:01pm


    I am forced to site in a cubicle 40 hours every week, and rarely have more than 20 hours worth of work to do. I work for a contract organization in a feast or famine industry, so asking for more work is often futile: even if other teams need the help they don't have the hours in their budget to bill your time to the client, and naturally your assigned team doesn't want you charging hours to the budget spent working on another team.

    I wish I could telecommute; those hours devoid of actual work could be spent on many other productive activities. But unfortunately my position is too low on the totem pole to be paperless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2006 @ 9:48am


    I just left my job because it moved to Cincinatti. They told us all web development groups are moving to Cincinatti, then moved some groups but not others. Complete BS.

    Layoffs by misery works!

    I can't wait til they realize they laid off the team with the most profitable applications in the whole corp. and they need to change them or have a problem.

    When you lose thousands of credit applications a day, it hurts, especially when the nearest competitor in the company is doing 400.

    I hope the savings is worth it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Brian, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 9:08am

    What if telecommuting becomes a necessity?

    Some interesting comments here. But with gas at $3+ per gallon, commuting could become cost-prohibitive for some people. And it could become critical to keeping the economy going if we are hit by some kind of a pandemic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2006 @ 7:37am

    Management Fads

    Foirget the fads, buzzwrods, and "programmes du jour". As Jerome Alexander points out in his book, "160 Degrees of Deviation: The Case for the Corporate Cynic", companies need to get back to basics. Understanding the value of skeptics and cynics of the latest fad is the key.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    top technology blogs, Apr 29th, 2011 @ 1:14am

    Re: anonymous coward

    oo really?
    what about ur father? :D

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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