Market Watch: Working in Pajamas
Working at home always sounds like a leisure for those needed at their workplace on time every early morning. You don’t need to wake up very early for the crowded rush hour public transportation or get tangled up with those who have similar working schedules as you. Meanwhile, you also can work while wearing your pajamas, or even in the nude no one would (or could) say a thing about it. The most important aspect is that your boss isn’t around, relieving the stress of supervision. You can have two hours worth of coffee breaks and blast your favorite songs at work. It sounds like the best balance between work and life.
In fact, working remotely existed in the tech industry for decades. In 2015, 37% of working Americans claimed to have done their work telecommunication and most of them agreed that working through telecommunication is as productive as working at office. As working remotely saves up time on traveling, employees can dedicate more hours to their work.
With the ease of internet networking, some employees in the tech industry no longer need to show up at their office. Communication can be done with online telecommunication software or professional chatrooms. Their works also can be stored and shared in cloud storages. Jobs with functions like collecting data online, writing/editing an article, and designing graphics don’t need to be done in an office setting; they can be done at any place as long as there exists an internet connection and electricity access. In addition, companies can save on expansive office rentals if they have a high quantity of employees that can do their work anywhere.
Though this sounds ideal, working from home requires more discipline than working under supervision. Employers only allow their employees working at home because they trust them to finish their work without problems regardless of working environment and the amount of supervision. However, there are many temptations on the internet and any given surroundings. Would you want to catchup on the latest Netflix show? Hangout with a few friends? A three-hour break of surfing on the net or playing some video games? These desires are permitted but you must have the work done. Like back in school, you may do your homework at late night and your teacher will be fine with it, if and only if the work is done correctly. As time goes on, it can be difficult to differentiate between work and life as you are working and living in the same location.
Recently, IBM, a tech giant that adopted this telecommunication model for a long time, is summoning their employees to return to work at their closet local office that they belong to, or they will need to find a new job. IBM gave 90 days to their employees to decide to whether stay or leave. Also, IBM is willing to pay for the transportation cost to the employees who are willing to relocate to cities they are assigned. This decision will co-locate about 2600 employees of their marketing department from Atlanta, Austin, Boston, New York, Raleigh, and San Francisco return to their local office and work together. Similar co-locate actions had been taken to employees of the IT division, designing, security, procurement, and many of the Watson AI teams. In the future, more departments of IBM will co-locate their remote employees. This may be one of the reasons why IBM laid off 14,000 employees in recent months.
According to the interview of Quartz to one of the IBM employee that needed to co-locate, many employees are upset and some are even choosing the latter option from their CEO: they are starting to look for new jobs. Unlike companies such as Facebook and Google which offer great employee benefits and free gourmet food to onsite employees to keep them on high energy, IBM employees didn’t even receive raises for moving into more expansive cities like New York City and San Francisco from their home location.
There are productivity and efficiency benefits of working together of course, to contrast with working from home. One of the benefit is the “water cooler effect.” There are psychological studies that support the statement that employees will be more productive if they can have some break time to socialize with their coworkers. It will increase communication and cohesion, as they are dedicating time to face-to-face communication, which lets them know more about each other. For the managers of IBM, it is better for the employees to return to their office since innovation often requires cooperation and communication amongst the team. This is a radical reformation for IBM, as it had experienced 19 consecutive quarters of decline in sales. In addition, IBM is not the first tech giant that co-locate their employees. Marissa Mayer ended Yahoo’s remote work policy in 2013, and Reddit took similar approach to remote employees in 2014. Google also has a strong anti-remote work culture.
At the moment, there are employees who are excited at the prospect of moving back to the office, while others are dissatisfied about this. Although the employees will still be working for the same company, having the same job responsibilities as before, switching the working location will impact a lot in both employee satisfaction and productivity. It is up to the future to judge whether pulling all employees together back to their local office be more productive than working remotely. Regardless of result, it will prove to be a valuable “experiment” for indecisive tech companies who’s futures may hang in the balance.