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HP To Cut Back On Telecommuting 238

Posted by Zonk
from the my-favorite-kind-of-commuting dept.
Makarand writes "Hewlett-Packard, the company that began making flexible work arrangements for its employees starting in 1967, is cutting back on telecommuting arrangements for its IT employees. By August, almost all of HP's IT employees will have to work in one of 25 designated offices during most of the week. Those who don't wish to make this change will be out of work without severance pay. While other companies nationwide are pushing more employees to work from home to cut office costs, HP believes bringing its information-technology employees together in the office will make them swifter and smarter and allow them to be more effective."
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HP To Cut Back On Telecommuting

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  • Could they... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by djsmiley (752149) <djsmiley2k@gmail.com> on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:33AM (#15466108) Homepage Journal
    News just in...

    HP moves all nationwide offices to india, any employees who refuse to move are out of a job without servernce pay....

    Could they do that, and if they can't, can they move them into offices? I guess its a contract thing, something for me to look out for if i ever telecommute..
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:39AM (#15466128)
      HP moves all nationwide offices to india,...

      That's what really pissed me off when I was in the biz. I would ask to work from home and I was ALWAYS told that, "No, we need you here to do your work."

      So, I would commute in every fucking day. Then, you guessed it, my job (and others'), were sent over seas to India. Yep, they needed their IT workers there all right!

    • Re:Could they... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Minupla (62455) <minupla&gmail,com> on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:52AM (#15466166) Homepage Journal
      Probably a contract thing. My current contract reads that should the company choose to relocate me, they are responsible for all expenses, but I am compelled to do the reloc.

      Not a biggie for me, as I read the contract fully and understood the implications. Also the one move so far has been for the better for me. e.g. not to india :)

      Min
    • I was thinking the opposite. Any job that can be done by a full time ore near full time telecommute can be outsourced offshore. If a person is not in the main office, not with clients, and the bigwigs don't ever see them, then it becomes reasonable to ask, is that person needed at all?

      I see this in a number of industries, where most of the work a person does in behind the scenes, few people see any physical evidence of work, and the people complain to high heaven if they are asked to come in for a day.

  • by IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:33AM (#15466111) Homepage Journal
    From an article I read on the effect of telecommuting, employees are *more* effective, or accomplish more, in less amount of time, when working from home, as it allows for a more relaxed atmosphere, among other benefits.

    But it's been a little while since I read the article, and I may have it wrong.
    • by suv4x4 (956391) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:46AM (#15466149)
      From an article I read on the effect of telecommuting, employees are *more* effective, or accomplish more, in less amount of time, when working from home, as it allows for a more relaxed atmosphere, among other benefits.

      No it's both ways. Telecommuting is good when the job is not emergent and requires a high amount of concentration (architecting, engineering, designing, given you have the tools at home).

      However if your job is routine, technical, and requires lots of work, associated with stress, telecommuniting can make you lazy, slack often (having no control) and doing a bad job overall.

      I guess a lesson is relearned: a new solution to a problem doesn't necessarily make older solutions invalid or worse.
      • by kfg (145172) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:55AM (#15466178)
        Telecommuting is good when the job is not emergent and requires a high amount of concentration (architecting, engineering, designing, given you have the tools at home).

        The very sort of people HP is calling in from the home.

        However if your job is routine, technical, and requires lots of work, associated with stress, telecommuniting can make you lazy, slack often (having no control) and doing a bad job overall.

        The very sort of people the new HP manager behind this move is used to dealing with in his previous job at Wal-Mart (no, that's not a joke. RTFA).

        KFG
        • by yoder (178161) * <progressivepenguin@gmail.com> on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:48AM (#15466396) Homepage Journal
          WallyWorld manager moves to HP and starts treating IT professionals like illegal immigrants and sub-minimum wage unskilled workers. That is an absolutely beautiful, crystal clear look into the future, because in the US, corporate managers and CEOs are being trained, or conditioned, to think of all workers in precisely that way.

          In the US today, employees and customers are the enemy as far as corporate management and CEOs are concerned.
        • Yep (Score:5, Insightful)

          by umbrellasd (876984) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:47AM (#15466658)
          It's pretty clear if you look at the management changes since the H and P in HP left, that HP has moved away from innovation and toward the bottom line. HP was very successful and well known for many years due to the unusual quality of its corporate culture and products. But the above poster's comment about HP/Wal-Mart is dead on.

          The more the new executives and managers chase the bottom line, the more HP will suffer (the more brilliant people will leave), and the worse they will fare in the market. I expect someone to acquire HP for the name at some point in the not-to-distant future. No doubt it will seem like a smart move to the new Wal-Mart managers, when looking at the "bottom line".

          • by sabinm (447146)
            No, the more companies continue to blindly pursue 'innovation' instead of the 'bottom line' the more their investors will shed their investments in 'risk taking' companies. HP is in a terrible position, losing market share in it's research, server and desktop divisions. It's overpriced printer cartridge division is carrying the company now. Frankly, selling most of it's patent portfolio, shaving off it's server and desktop divisions and becoming an printer, camera and ink seller (in other words being mor
            • It's overpriced printer cartridge division is carrying the company now. Frankly, selling most of it's patent portfolio, shaving off it's server and desktop divisions and becoming an printer, camera and ink seller (in other words being more of an office supply company) might actually be more healthy for the company. Let them invest some seed money in smaller business who still need to innovate to survive. Complaining about a company who is beholden to it's stock holders for pushing for the bottom line make

          • HP has moved away from innovation and toward the bottom line. HP was very successful and well known for many years due to the unusual quality of its corporate culture and products. But the above poster's comment about HP/Wal-Mart is dead on.

            It appears HP decided to copy Dell, who admitted they were a marketing and distribution company and not a "technology" company.

            At face value it seems logical to copy your most profitable competitor. However, there is also the issue of niche. There may only be so much r
            • There is also a niche for innovation, which HP *was* well-qualified to shift into similarly to how Apple's niche or specialty is user interface (both hardware and software-wise), not price.

              Exactly right. Somebody at HP said, "we're going to compete with Dell on Dell's turf, by Dell's rules, with higher expenses than Dell."

              I'd like to know which business school that guy went to.
          • Re:Yep (Score:4, Informative)

            by mchambers3 (979151) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @02:22PM (#15467813)

            I don't expect anyone to acquire HP. Compaq's acquisition of Digital created an enormous bloat that ultimately sank Compaq. HP's ill-advised decision to acquire Compaq was in the political and financial interests of a handful of executives at both firms, at the enormous expense of employees, stockholders, and customers. More significantly HP inherited the problems of a troubled Compaq in a troubled industry. Since the acquisition, HP's stock as risen as I predicted it would from $11/share to the low 30's. However, most of that rise as been "normal buoancy" of a rising tech market recovering from the 2000-2001 decline and the collective sigh of relief when Fiorina's hand-picked board of directors found balls enough to fire her.

            Despite that progress (for which my retirement fund is grateful), HP faces daunting challenges:

            1. Their market share in printers was so high that there was nowhere to go but down, as offerings from Epson, Canon, and others brought increasingly credible offerings to market.

            2. The printer market itself has been saturated.

            3. The PC business is only marginally profitable and unlikely to improve.

            4. The large server market is (Unix SuperDome systems) is under pressure from increasingly powerful dual core offerings from Intel and AMS.

            5. HP's multibillion dollar gamble on Itanium (remember HP partnered with Intel to co-invent and co-fund Itanium) has largely failed, as AMD forced Intel's had with it's dual mode 32/64-bit Opteron, leaving Itanium to join Betamax in the Hall of Fame for great technologies that the market passed on.

            6. HP has huge customer credibility issues across an untenable array of platform and operating system offerings: multiple versions of Unix, Tandem Non-stop, DEC Alpha and it's myriad of also-ran OSes, and MPE, which has survived HP management's best efforts to kill it. It's not that customers don't understand the HP roadmap: it's that HP has earned low credibility.

            7. Even if HP returned to its $11 five year low, the market cap is so large that only a stock swap in a highly inflated market would permit HP's acquisition. Even then, who could buy them without getting shot down by FTC or EEC antitrust regulators. IBM's big enough; Dell might be. But either would create untenable monopoly through an acquisition of that size. The only possibility of an acquisition I could forsee is from outside the IT Industry.

            8. HP's profits still largely come from ink, toner, and print media -- an annuity revenue stream for HP, but one facing erosion as years of market share losses on print platforms translate into lower growth in ink.

            I look for HP to begin selling off assets and lines of business.

            On Telecommuting...

            The folks HP is reeling back in are application developers, IT support, network management, etc., not the customer facing architects and field force. HP has realized, I suspect, that workspace costing formulas were the problem (for example, a 8x8 cubibcle in Houston "cost" the same as a 8x8 cube in Manhattan -- not exactly market reality). There are substantial costs involved with telecommuting (networking, local equipment that would normally be shared). More importantly, IT operations is a team sport that often requires pulling people into a room and hammering out an answer or an agreement -- much harder to do when employee's are changing diapers while on a con-call.

            What's really driving this announcement is that HP is reducing the number of datacenters it operates from and unfathomable 87 to a still barely believable 25. If the telecommuting model were left in place, you'd have support people in one city theorhetically supporting a consolidated data center in another city. That just doesn't make sense.

            In the years since Lew Platt left, HP has done some remarkably stupid things. However, this move isn't one of them. It's a necessary move to get both the internal and external cost structure in line with a very competitive IT Services business. The disparity
            • Even if HP returned to its $11 five year low, the market cap is so large that only a stock swap in a highly inflated market would permit HP's acquisition. Even then, who could buy them without getting shot down by FTC or EEC antitrust regulators.
              I see AT&T brand toner in my crystal ball.
        • Telecommuting is good when the job is not emergent and requires a high amount of concentration (architecting, engineering, designing, given you have the tools at home).

          The very sort of people HP is calling in from the home.


          Not at all. While the IT field certainly requires a lot of experience, 80% of it is routine.
    • I think the issue is that people are viewing this as a "One size fits all". Some people are best working in an office, some people are best working from home, some people are best with a combination of the two; for example, I tend to spend more time working, at work, but have a lot less distractions at home, so if I need to get one single task done fast, home is most appropriate, but otherwise at work is better.

      Well, it'll be interesting to see how this all comes out in the end, anyway...
    • From an article I read on the effect of telecommuting, employees are *more* effective, or accomplish more, in less amount of time, when working from home, as it allows for a more relaxed atmosphere, among other benefits.

      I could see that being the case for 2-3 days out of the week, depending on what your job is. But really, if you're working in a team situation (as 99% of people are), there is really no way to effectively work from home 100% of the time. You need to be able to sit down with the rest of you
    • When your work is primarily teamwork, telecommuting is very disruptive. It can be done, but it's never as easy or productive as an actual office. And you never get the benefits of spontaneous brainstorming. Some of my best ideas have come from BSing with coworkers.

      For research jobs, telecommuting doesn't wortk so well.

    • And if you read it in an article, it must be true.

      My experience with telecommuting is that it breeds inefficiency and lack of communication. But it looks good to the bean counters who now dominate corporate management. Such folks are always looking for line items to cut, and fuck the long term consequences. And real-estate is a big line item, especially in Silicon Valley. Telecommuters don't need offices, which means smaller corporate campuses. And if you hire people to work from low cost-of-living locat

  • It makes sense (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:38AM (#15466124)
    The problem is not the technology, its the people. We allow all of our developers to work at home, providing them with the equipment (VPN, 2nd computer, etc) and technology (1/2 of broadband expenses) to make it possible. But most developers end up coming into the office. Most of them have found that they either A. Lack the self discipline to keep up the pace when working at home and B. They do not have enough access to their co-workers at home despite access to the technology. A lot of our work is multi-discipline, multi-language (Java, C++, C) and spans everything from drivers to applications, our developers simply need real-time access to their peers in order to do the work.

    When we have tried this with other aspects of our business it has had similar results. Most people simply lack the self discipline to make turn the telecommuter opportunity into a reality (for them).

    • Ack, it's the people. But that also means it's their responsibility.

      As long as people keep their deadlines (i.e. as long as they do their f***ing job) I'd say, do as you wish.

      As you say, many people *choose* to work at work, because it works better for them; that's fine, some others don't. HP decided to simply not let people decide how they can best work. That's cause HP is such a great innovative company that's omnisavant.
    • Re:It makes sense (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bigman2003 (671309) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:51AM (#15466410) Homepage
      I've been on two sides of the issue.

      First, as a 'worker' I was allowed to telecommute occasionally. I know that for myself (reasonably well motivated) the temptations at home were too strong for me, and I ended up screwing around about 4 hours a day. Add a wife/kids to the mix, and I would not consider this time to be productive. My co-workers all reported the same thing.

      Now as a manager, I run into similar problems with my employees. It took a while for one guy to figure out that Xbox Live lets me know exactly how much screwing around he is doing. (Hmm...he had Oblivion running all day, AND got 5 achievements...) Yet of course he claimed to be working all day. He is no longer eligible for telecommuting.

      Now I only support telecommuting with other employees occasionally, and only if there is a very defined project with a definite deliverable at the end. For instance, "You need to have this help file completely finished tomorrow." (Knowing that it is probably a 4 hour job that would be stretched to 8 even if they were at work.)

      I'm not trying to be an asshole, but it's just the reality for the people I work with. Given the opportunity, they would sit at home and play games- while making excuses why things didn't get done. They did that when I was part of the team, and they tried to do it when I became the boss.

      (Truth be told, when they are AT work, they are very effective, highly productive, and a great team. They are not a bunch of clowns, they just get distracted. But being distracted at work is what lets them see problems from many angles, so it is a good trait if focused on productive issues, instead of deciding which armor to wear.)
      • Re:It makes sense (Score:4, Interesting)

        by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:23PM (#15467509)
        It's funny, because I see just the opposite with my once-a-week telecommute. I get interrupted all the bloody time when I'm in the office, which makes it very hard to work on the "big picture" projects we've got going. On my telecommute day, I don't get the walk-in or phone-in interruptions - it's much easier to focus and get work done.

        At the end of the day, I send my boss a list of what I've worked on.

        The only downside for me is I have a tendency to work extra hours those days, because there'll be one or two things that I know will be difficult to finish with the "one interruption every 10 minutes" atmosphere that pervades our computing group (most of which are not relevant to my actual job).

      • Re:It makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

        by achurch (201270) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @05:29PM (#15468652) Homepage
        Now as a manager, I run into similar problems with my employees. It took a while for one guy to figure out that Xbox Live lets me know exactly how much screwing around he is doing. (Hmm...he had Oblivion running all day, AND got 5 achievements...) Yet of course he claimed to be working all day. He is no longer eligible for telecommuting.

        But was he still accomplishing his goals? I assume not, because you don't sound like the kind of person who'd take such a shallow disciplinary action, but it brings up a point:

        Too many people assume that--whether at the office or at home--doing nothing but work will always produce the most output for a given period of time. Now, for things like factory assembly lines or monkey coding that don't require thinking, this is more or less true; but for the types of people who most commonly commute--design, R&D and so forth--it doesn't always hold.

        In point of fact, when I changed jobs recently I spent my first six months working at the office, then got permission to telecommute. When I looked back over my first year, I'd actually gotten more done at home, despite taking frequent breaks to read a book, play Katamari Damacy, what have you. I suspect it's those relaxation periods that keep my work brain running at full speed, whereas it's awful hard to relax at the office (I don't even have a cubicle, just a desk in a big open room).

        One curious thing I've found since starting to telecommute is that work has become almost another hobby for me. Granted I've always found it interesting, but at the office there was always an element of stuffiness, if you will, whereas at home, as long as I make my weekly goals (and I do), it's just one more part of my daily schedule. I guess work really does flow more smoothly when it's fun.

    • It is fascinating to me that I often see comments like this one posted more or less anonymously - the common thread being that all such posting never reference the alleged company that employs the alleged telecommuters. I can't help but contrast these remarks with job requirements postings to job boards where telecommuting is pretty much a dirty word - in 10 years I have yet to find a [legitimate] hiring company that admits to allowing work to be performed offsite. I'm sure this will generate a some virul
  • by anonymousman77 (584651) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:38AM (#15466125)
    This is the first sign that the "pendulum" is swinging toward having local job creation again. HP admitted that having the IT folks TOGETHER makes them better. You couldn't be more apart than California and India.
    Of course, your programmers have been telling you this for YEARS, but it takes a pointy-haired boss to implement it.
  • by gubachwa (716303) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:49AM (#15466156)
    Romans also had the same problem with slaves [cartoonstock.com]. For some reason they couldn't exercise as much influence over their slaves when they worked from home. Of course, instead of whips and chains, HP has employee surveillance and the threat of outsourcing to keep their staff in line.
  • by tylernt (581794) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:50AM (#15466159)
    What's interesting is their non-IT employees can continue to telecommute. I would guess that the IT folks being forced to relocate and physi-commute aren't too happy about that.
  • by JakiChan (141719) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:50AM (#15466160)
    I hope they've thought this through. They say that high performers can keep telecommuting, but I somehow doubt they'll allow that due to morale issues. The clued people who can perform while telecommuting are the same people who can easily find new jobs. If I was being asked to relocate because they won't let me telecommute anymore then I'd consider if I really want to work for a company that says they no longer trust me.

    When you lay off your least valuable folks and then start doing stuff like this your most valuable folks start looking. You end up with the people that aren't good enough to get hired elsewhere but probable were gonna be on the next layoff list. Yeah, that's really the kind of people I want supporting my mission-critical gear...
    • I've seen this happen. Large business unit in company looks around and figures out they have a lot of deadwood telecommuting from home all over the country. Rather than go through the hard exercise of identifying and firing the deadwood, they tell everyone they can't telecommute anymore and have to move to one of x possible sights.

      What happens is predictable. The deadwood moves, because they can never find a job this good again. A lot of the top talent, who really liked where they lived, and really like
    • by Jerf (17166)
      They say that high performers can keep telecommuting, but I somehow doubt they'll allow that due to morale issues.

      This reminds me of an old Dilbert cartoon, where the PHB announces that the company will be cutting back on business card printing, and only vital employees will be allowed to order business cards. In the next panel, every employee is thinking "I'd better order business cards to find out if I'm 'vital'.".

      I expect this would go the same way... well, actually the employees will jump to the correct
  • telecommuting (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Before I get hammered this is the right thing to do. Flexibility is great and being able to work for a few hours on Friday from home when taking comp hours for the rest of the day is efficient and great. Or working from home when you are waiting for the guy of the telecom. Great that's good for the firm and the worker.

    But telecommuting for most of the time is stupid and neither good for worker nor firm.

    1) My problem is distraction, when I have to finish something I can work from home, that's ok. But if noth
    • Re:telecommuting (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ckhorne (940312) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:20AM (#15466546)
      I'm a telecommuter- I work 80-90% of my time at home; I go into the office about once every week or two. My commute (when I do go in) is 36 miles each way, and in Atlanta traffic, takes about 1.5-2hrs each way. I'm lead developer on a small (4 person) team for a private medium-sized ($300m/yr and ~2000 employees) company. I'm a contractor, but have been there for a little more than three years now, so I'm a full employee by almost any definition.

      Pros:

      1) I'm a lot more productive at home. Everybody has been through that - they can just get more done.

      2) I'm a developer, so I really don't need to interact much beyond my own team, and through daily phone conferences, personal phone calls, IM, and email, we stay connected.

      3) Traffic makes my blood boil, and the idea of losing 4hrs/day sitting in traffic just makes it sound that much worse.

      4) I am less productive before noon and more productive late at night. I try to stick to a 9-10 through 5-6 schedule, but if I get an idea late at night, I can crank out some code without having to be in my office.

      5) I have my own office at home. It has dedicated computers for work, a desk, and all the "comforts" of work, plus a radio and a decent view. When I'm done for the day, I can shut the door and leave it behind. I have a separate work phone number, and after a certain time, I don't answer it.

      6) Fuel savings - $3/g @ 25mpg * 72miles * 5days => $43/week on gas. Not horrible, but that's assuming I'm not sitting in traffic. $43/week ~= $2100/yr. This easily makes up for my extra expenses I bring on myself from working at home.

      7) I can visit out-of-town friends and family and work from there as if I'm still in the office. This takes a LOT more discipline, though, and I only do it rarely.

      8) My business wardrobe is hardly anything. Most of my days are spent in shorts and a t-shirt.

      9) I can listen to whatever damn station I want and turn up the radio as loud as I want (although always just barely on). :)

      Cons:

      1) I can "get stuck" at home for days or even a week at a time, with no real reason to leave the house. I have to look for reasons to get out. You can start to miss the normal, everyday interactions with other people. This is probably the biggest disadvantage to me.

      2) Motivation is sometimes a factor, but it is in the office sometimes as well. Granted, I have the freedom (as an hourly contractor) to take off half an afternoon and not bill for it, and working at home makes this easier.

      3) Working at home does take a lot of motivation and self-discipline. I find that I don't have too much trouble, esp. if I set goals for the day/week/month and stick to them. This should be true in any job situation, though.

      I've telecommuted for other companies in the past ~6 years (small startups, side gigs, and worked for a London-based company for 18 months). All the above points all still hold true. Yes, you may miss things like working with the team, the team interaction, etc, but I find that we all do just fine; this is partly to do with the fact that I've always worked on small teams of very competenent people.

      To address the points in the above poster:

      1) I agree- disipline differs for everyone. Some people can work remotely effectively; others cannot.

      2) I agree with being able to talk to people, but using IM and email can work wonders as long as you're verbose. Plus, you have a papertrail for everything.

      3) Physically seeing the team is not a prerequisite for team spirit. The guys on my team all feel that we're part of the team and work as a team. And when the product fails or succeeds, we feel it as a team.

      4) I have an office at home; I shut the door when I leave. If you have any 40+ hr/week job + commute, it's going to eat up your weekly life anyway. I find I get more personal time when working at home.
    • Re:telecommuting (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pla (258480)
      My problem is distraction

      YOUR problem. Not mine.

      When I telecommuted, I got up every morning, got dressed, and put in my 8 hours. That makes all the difference, having the personal discipline to still "go to work", even if that means sitting in my own living room at a laptop. Not to say that I didn't squeeze a little more flexibility out of my time that I would in an office (can't easily take a porn break while at the office), but at least 90% comparable to non-telecommuting, I put in a standard 9-to
    • by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:47AM (#15466660) Homepage
      For this a work environment is great to keep focussed.

      If you're the type who needs a work environment to keep focused it would be better not to telecommute, but I bill less when the customer lets me work at home and get more done. It's not that hard to monitor performance in a remote development environment. Either someone is making their milestones or not, closing trouble tickets or not. I can look at their code and tell how long it should have taken vs the actual billing. What I save in clothes, gas and commute time is invaluable. My equipment, my dev environment, my work space at home are all set up for how I work.

      A phone list and a speaker phone is all I need for quick consults, fax machine for paperworks, we keep code libraries in common access areas accessible via VPN if I need something. I find interaction at work actually detracts from production more often than helping it. There are times when face to face meetings are unavoidable, like gathering requirements and monitoring user interaction on betas, but other than that I'd say a full 75% of interuptions at the office are at best unproductive and frequently just plain annoying. If I have to forward my office phone, my productivity tanks. If I can check messages a couple times a day that's better.

      For people interested in playing politics or needing interaction with other people, an office is necessary. For me the more you leave me alone, the more I'll get done. Sometimes I'll collaborate with other developers...I work with a graphics guy in California regularly. We can work together almost like we're in the same room. We've had three way phone confernces where we've all been hammering away on our part of the app, yapping back and forth on the speaker phone. It was very much like being in an office.

  • Homeboys (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jense (978975) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:53AM (#15466167) Homepage
    I coulda SWORN the idea behind telcommuting was that you didn't waste time driving or putting up with office-related BS. I know that having a home office alows greater flexibility (which apparently is a bad thing to HP). But as introverted and "leave me alone and let me work" as most programmers and IT personnel are, why would you force them into a room and waste more of their time getting to an environment they hate? I smell backlash. This is akin to offering insurance benefits and then recanting after years.
    • Because as much as programmers and IT personnel don't want to deal with each other, if you can get them to actually talk, you can get some significant improvements in performance. This is particularly true of you're dealing with projects bigger than one person; by putting your staff within easy access of each other, questions will be answered faster, and that can really help. Even if working on independent projects, the ability to trivially ask someone for their advice on a particularly tricky problem is in
      • if your staff have an hour's commute each way, the time saved by having them close to each other will almost certainly be wiped out by time commuting

        What connection do you see between commuting time and working time? Commuting comes out of the employee's personal time. I've never once seen any business which factors it in to the time they're expected to spend working. From the employee's side, that seems a bit off ("work is claiming 10 hours of my day but only paying for 10"), but, from the management si
        • The commuting time thing is something that annoys me to no end, I read some "study" by a "pro-free market think tank" (lacking a better word) that claimed that people who complained about eight hour workdays were just ungrateful bastards because they had so and so many percent of their time not devoted to work. But this study was of course flawed as hell, they counted eight hours of work time per day and everything else was free time.

          If you start thinking about it the average person needs about eight hours

        • To be honest, I'm more thinking efficiency.

          Okay, I imagine I'm not the only /.er to be working with no fixed hours (although I may be the only one where that doesn't mean 60+ hours a week). Following a rather vague train of thought, I suspect people working from home might not be too hard to persuade to spend an extra hour doing work, instead of time they might be commuting. Alternatively, even if they spend that hour relaxing, having more relaxed staff should also benefit productivity. ...

          Look, can I just
    • But as introverted and "leave me alone and let me work" as most programmers and IT personnel are, why would you force them into a room and waste more of their time getting to an environment they hate?

      Because developing serious software is a team effort. "Leave me alone and let me work" too often becomes "I know the right way to do this part of the project — the restof you are idiots, so go fuck yourselves." The result is software where the pieces don't fit, and the overall product bears little resem

  • Teamwork? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Very.Zen (831087) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:57AM (#15466189)
    From TFA:

    In an office, ``you're able to put teams together that can learn very aggressively and rapidly from each other,''

    Agreed, IMO lower skilled work environments are much better suited to home working. For example call centre work etc. The only reason I say this is that everyday I go into work and I learn something new from the people around me. Not to say this is "agressive" but if I get stuck on a bit of code, or perhaps a general concept I know that others around me may be able to help, and if they cant then we have discovered something that we as a group are lacking in.

    Otherwise these thing go unnoticed, you recieve no critism and do not learn as effectively. Ideally in a team the stronger members of the group can carry the weaker members until they have caught up with the rest.

    I cant see how this could be as effective in homeworking, in fact some animosity may occur towards weaker members due to percieved "lazyness" when actually they are just have legitimate trouble with their task.
    • Re:Teamwork? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bahwi (43111)
      Need more online collaboration. IM, email, SVN, bug tracker, telephone(or voice chat).

      I know working closely makes sense, but you have to put effort into it. Once you're separated, if you the same effort into it, you'll reap similar rewards. I don't think either is particularly better, but as far as learning from others, etc...

      I promise you I could walk into a work enviroment in-office and get far less done and help out far less by simply not putting any effort into it, than I could in a separated enviromen
  • Probably some HP manager saw how great people can hack stuff at a Hackathon, so they decided to Put People Together.

    Seems like the 21st century's super-efficient leveraging communications technology suddenly isn't good enough for efficient, productive communication anymore...?

    Hm, tell that to any company that sells software for digital groupware/communication/...


  • Many bosses like to be able to pop in unannounced to check up on employees and keep them honest. That's not so easy when they telecommute. It's hard to tell how long they "worked".

    As the price of gas soars, it's becoming irresponsible to force all this commuting. Even if it's just 1 or 2 days a week, it reduces traffic. pollution and improves employees lives.

    • If I could telecommute, I would gladly keep an "always on" webcam available so anyone who wanted could peer in if they wanted. I'd even let it record so it could be reviewed.

      I'm not one to usually do so, but I'd trade that bit of liberty for the convenience of telecommuting. I don't mind if people want to watch me work.

      Steve
  • by Anonymous Coward
    At the same time as all the IT staff have been told to come back in to the offices to work, HP is also undertaking a massive reduction in real estate.

    The building management teams are going nuts trying to fit more people in less capacity. They weren't warned about the telecommuting initiative when planning began for the consolidations.

    Many staff are having their cube-space halved, some of the hot-desking areas are not much bigger than 1sq metre. Teams that are being told they have to come back in are

  • by raoul Pop (959233) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:31AM (#15466330) Homepage
    Here are my thoughts on this:

    * 180-degree turns are traumatic, and don't turn out well. This is one such change, and it will be messy and painful. It will alienate a lot of bright folks. From a management standpoint, it's not right. Change is best done gradually, and by co-opting people.

    * Making the bright people come into the office in order to straighten out the poor performers, as HP's CIO hints, is yet another silly decision. Yes, I can tell you certain IT personnel should be on-site, but not everyone needs to be there. If HP's IT workforce is peppered with poor employees, this is a recruitment/management issue, not a telecommuting issue. The decision is a non sequitur. If your tire is flat, plugging the exhaust pipe won't solve the problem. Seems to me a much better solution would be to pair up the poor performers with good performers who live in the same area, and have them work together on issues, whether it's at someone's home or my IM/phone. Training would also be another solution.

    I wrote about this in more detail here: http://www.comeacross.info/2006/06/04/hp-to-cancel -telecommuting-for-its-it-division/ [comeacross.info].
  • There are a lot of computer companies that, in my opinion, sell garbage products, products that cause IT professionals grief, or would if they weren't eliminated.

    HP's products are worse than garbage, in my experience. They are scary garbage. I tried to un-install an HP printer driver and the un-install program deleted more than 900 files in the WinNT folder, files belonging to the operating system, not HP.

    An HP technical support person told me to solve a problem with an HP printer driver by renaming an HP file so the driver could not be used.

    Another HP technical support person told me to solve a problem with an HP network printer driver by not trying to use the network facility.

    When installing an HP printer, it has been common that there are error messages. This is during installation. We stopped buying HP products because of that.

    It's sad to see HP on a downward spiral. Lou Platt was a terrible manager. Carly Fiorina was FAR worse. I'm guessing the company is rated about 0.1 Enron now.

    Watch for this: The top managers of HP will destroy the company, but will still take home tens of millions of dollars in salary and "bonuses", as Carly Fiorina did. Top managers have become enemies of companies and enemies of society.

    I don't know if this is true, but it has been said that HP would not be profitable if the company could not sell Inkjet printer ink for $800 per gallon. If that is true, then it is possible that HP is not primarily a computer company, but is primarily an "expoiter of customer ignorance" company.

    HP was once a company admired by everyone.

    I agree with previous comments that probably HP is planning to fire the employees.

    Nicole C. Wong, the author of the article did a surprisingly good job in writing it. Normally business writers are clueless about technology.

    --
    Edwards: George W. Bush is the "worst president of our lifetime" [go.com].
    • HP's latest 10Q indicates that a bit more than 1/2 of their profit comes from the printing and imaging division. All 5 other divisions are profitable. For your statement about HP not being profitable if the Inkjet ink weren't so expensive to be true, the net losses on all printers and laser toner would have to be stupendous. Not likely. On the other hand, the printing and imaging division appears to have a much higher profit margin than the other divisions.
  • I don't remember who said, "Change is the only thing that really stays the same", but it's appropriate. There are advantages and disadvantages to working at home, and HP has decided that this week they want to reap the benefits of team-based collaboration. Maybe it's as simple as a new manager wanting to have whatever managers are n levels below him directly indoctrinate these telecommuters to his way of thinking.

    I hope they let the employees keep their VPN equipment and computers at home, and give them

  • IBM ads? (Score:2, Insightful)

    HP believes bringing its information-technology employees together in the office will make them swifter and smarter and allow them to be more effective

    Kind of like in those IBM advertisements in magazines where the guy goes crazy and duct tapes the entire office staff together. That'll certainly make everyone collaborate better.

  • What does a manager do all day when the staff are working from home?

    Manager job security might just depend on there being an office full of people.

  • "By August, almost all of HP's IT employees will have to work in one of 25 designated offices during most of the week. Those who don't wish to make this change will be out of work without severance pay."

    And the beatings will continue until morale improves.
    • It's not just morale. I work at a company where telecommuting was taken away. I spent a bit of money setting up a good place to work in my apartment and putting together a separate machine so I could keep work stuff separate from my personal stuff. I ended up repurposing the space and the machine (it makes a nice MAME box), but it's money I most likely wouldn't have spent had I known I wouldn't be able to telecommute.
  • by taosystems (930479) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:26AM (#15466569)
    Perhaps they realized that there's value in gosipping over the coffeepots, durring 'break' times. Engineers are used to kibizing on each other's projects.
  • Here is an interesting problem. You as a telecommuter live about at least 200+ miles from the nearest work center. Will the company pay for the expense of you to move in closer plus the cost of housing ? Some people might choose to live in rural areas since cost of living such as property is much cheaper than living in a big city.

    In my experience. I live in Colorado. In my old job with a manager who was an asshat, it mentioned to me that if I wanted to continue to work, I should consider jobs in the Wash
  • by sane? (179855)
    This is an extremely dumb move. Not only is this PHB going to royally piss people off, just so that he can confuse matters enough that there is no tracability in his performance - he is implementing this bone headed plan at just the moment when oil prices mean telecommuting should be extended further.

    If there are issues with the performance of some, that is cause to change the system, not throw everything out and make it worse for the majority. The 'everyone round the watercooler, discussing problems' ide

  • Bad Move (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pandrijeczko (588093) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @11:21AM (#15466840)
    My other half works for HP, within the IT infrastructure, here in the UK and she is fully aware of this new directive coming out of her employer.

    In her internal consulting role, she liases with HP people both in Europe and the USA - consequently, she can start work at 7am (for the Europeans) and finish as late as 9pm (for the Americans). No, she doesn't do a 14-hour day everyday but I would say that she averages out about 10 hours per day and she *does* work all of that time - so whilst she's contracted for a 40-hour week, she easily puts in 45-50 hours a week based on the number of days she works from home currently.

    Her current office, in Reading, is about 30 minutes drive from our home - she goes in about twice a week, she tends to start for 8am in the morning and aims to finish about 5pm to the gym on her way home. So whilst she does do 8 hours in the office a day, it's generally less hours per day than working from home.

    Now consider this. The Reading campus is closing in July and she (and her colleagues) are being moved to the Bracknell campus, about an additional 30 minutes on her travel time from our house. She will not be able to have her own desk because (apparently) HP have a *shortage* of several thousand permanent desks in the UK - so even when she gets to her office, she's no guarantee of getting a desk.

    So, in summary, now that she will have to spend two hours in the car daily (as opposed to one hour twice a week), she will make up that additional travel time from the additional hours she put in at home each week because she sees no reason why her personal & entertainment time needs to suffer - consequently, HP get less work out of her.

  • Totally hypocritical (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blair1q (305137) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @11:46AM (#15466978) Journal
    Carly Fiorina was the strongest proponent of sending American jobs to India, effectively creating an entire industry of telecommuting.

    Now HP is saying telecommuting is bad?

    Face it. Corporations want to be slave-drivers, and it's only through democratic lawmaking that we keep them from getting their wish.
  • Rather than deal with the source of the problem just uproot the entire system. Dealing with the source of the problem would require managers to actually expend some effort to figure out who is valuable and doing work and who is not.

    This is just a typical least effort solution to a problem. Not suprising that Wall Street views this guy as a brain child as that group is quite content to view the world using simplistic numerical equations. This group is also driving most of corporate world to short term thin
  • Telecommuting... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ngwenya (147097) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @11:54AM (#15467021)
    (ObDisclaimer: I work for HP IT. But if you're looking for a "Randy Mott/Mark Hurd Sucks" message, this isn't it. HP has a very vocal set of internal fora for bitching at management. I do my whining through the media which might actually effect change. Slashdot, I'm afraid, isn't it).

    Firstly, the policy of colocation is not just tied to telecommuters - the idea is to centralise a highly distributed IT workforce. So, eventually, nearly all IT workers will need to relocate to a few central locations. The teleworkers are just first on the list for relocation.

    Secondly the problem for many IT firms is not telecommuting per se, it's the fact that we've just sleepwalked into teleworking without a clear business analysis as to whether the business operations can effectively sustain this model of working in each case. Sometimes they can, sometimes they can't. Now, this is a historic failure of management - senior employees get sufficiently pissed off with life in the Bay Area, or Houston, or Atlanta, and feel the need to get a quieter life in Dogshit, Nebraska. Fine and dandy - but it's effective management to say "Sorry, we can't have you in your current job doing that". Neither mean, nor incorrect - just a manager doing his/her job in keeping the department going. But we don't do that - we just say "Yeah, sure. Get an ADSL line, we'll be cool". Sometimes it's true - sometimes it's not. Now - how do you pull that position back into line? In HP, that's Randy Mott's problem. He's got a system that's been allowed to grow wild in many areas and is, to all intents and purposes, out of control.

    Randy Mott has an extremely aggressive set of targets in trying to push up the efficiency of HP's IT. Maybe he's going about it the wrong way - if so, he'll pay with his job.

    --Ng (not in any way speaking for HP, HP IT, or Randy)
    • by MarcoAtWork (28889) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:37PM (#15467277)
      has an extremely aggressive set of targets in trying to push up the efficiency of HP's IT. Maybe he's going about it the wrong way - if so, he'll pay with his job.

      and use the golden parachute in his contract to get another ferrari, while all the people that have been forced to move and/or put in much worse working conditions will continue to suffer because, of course, their parachutes are made of used kleenex...

      It seems that in our industry as soon as you reach the senior management/vp level you are basically given carte blanche to do anything you like for the rest of your life without consequences: tons of money/options to start, huge salaries, tons of money/options when you leave (whether or not you've done anything good) and pretty much a guarantee of another gig exactly like the former as soon as you're done since, after all, you can always say that you "created value for the shareholders by slashing expenses by x%", even if the way you did that was to make your employees work in 2'x2' cubicles standing up to get more mileage of your office space.
  • I'd like to give HP a great big "F-U!" for being one of the companies that has encouraged the company I work for to go with an open space floor plan. Contrary to management's belief, we all want our damned offices back.

    The founders of HP are rolling over in their graves with what the current management has done to destroy that company.
  • Has it dawned on any of you that HP might be doing this because telecommuting just isn't that successful?
  • This move by HP is incredibly stupid, and is evidence of the misbegotten merger of Compaq and HP. Much of the management has shifted to Houston away from Palo Alto, and the office culture at former Compaq in Houston is more traidtional, and by some estimation, dull and visionless. Many of the new muckamucks in IT are all from Compaq, and from what I can gather, completely clueless about what the future will bring.

    The future is not for people to schlep their butts across suburbia to a centrally air-conditi

    • Typical of a Pee-Cee company. I too work for a Pee-Cee company due to an acquistion. Lots of stupid things have been done since Pee-Cee companies have no clue how to sell to enterprise customers (i.e. customers that run Unix). However, they haven't gotten that stupid yet. I suspect there would be a revolt of us legacy enterprise computer company employees if that were to occur (we deliver the bulk of the revenue - so we aren't entirely powerless). But this kind of stupidity definitely gives me pause.
  • by mpaque (655244) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @04:29PM (#15468384)
    The architect of the HP division's change, Randy Mott, is regarded by Wall Street as a mastermind of operational efficiency based on his days as chief information officer at Wal-Mart Stores and Dell.

    Heh. It's a cheap stealth layoff. Quite a few of the telecommuting workers won't go along with the change, and will find other work. Telecommuting IT employees tend to be more senior (both higher salary, and older). This both gives HP IT a dodge around US laws establishing protected-class workers (over age 40), and allows a fairly cheap staffing reduction:

    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.

    Employees who don't play along are not laid off, but instead either quit or are terminated for cause. This dodges the legal issues (42 USC 2000e and the ADEA, see also http://www.eeoc.gov/ [eeoc.gov]), and avoids severence pay and contract issues.

    Randy Mott is known as a real "fix it" guy in IT Management circles. This move will get him well on the way of accomplishing a streamilining of HP IT. (IT workers are probably well aware of what management streamlining means for them...)

God may be subtle, but he isn't plain mean. -- Albert Einstein

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