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HP To Cut Back On Telecommuting 238

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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  • by IWantMoreSpamPlease ( 571972 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:33AM (#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.
  • It makes sense (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:38AM (#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).

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

    by Minupla ( 62455 ) <> on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:52AM (#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 :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:17AM (#15466264)
    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 sometimes getting half the cubes they need for the number in the team, so many have to hot-desk.

    Adding to this, HP's closing many smaller outlying sites and those people have to travel to the bigger sites. The buildings will certainly be crammed to the rafters with people.

  • Re:mad force.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by yoder ( 178161 ) * <> on Sunday June 04, 2006 @11:05AM (#15466471) Homepage Journal
    I telecommute as well as working in the office. As a Systems Admin I can do most of my job remotely and my bosses use telecommuting as a way to pay for productivity. I know when to work at home and when I'm needed in the office and have gone out of my way to make sure that my productivity has increased since I began telecommuting.

    When someone uses the "a few bad apples spoil it for the whole bunch" argument, they don't address the probability that productivity increases as a whole, even with those bad apples. In this particular case, a Wallyworld manager goes to HP and begins treating IT professionals just like they treated the illegal immigrants and sub-minimum wage unskilled workers back at Wallyworld.

    Telecommuting isn't for everyone, nor for every job, but taking your lead on this issue from a Wally World manager is like asking a NeoCon for advice on social responsibility in government.
  • by the packrat ( 721656 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:50PM (#15467004) Homepage
    Some jobs have a direct, measurable effect on the bottom line. Bet they aren't the ones being cut.

    And it's for this precise reason that companies in trouble almost always fire all of the engineers and people producing product while ramping up the sales force.

    The next step is left as an exercise for the reader.

  • Re:Yep (Score:4, Informative)

    by mchambers3 ( 979151 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @03:22PM (#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
  • by hbummedp ( 979217 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @11:20PM (#15469836)
    Remember that HP is attempting (and succeeding VERY well) a huge cost-cutting effort. One of the largest efforts in this attempt is the effective reduction of headcount by around 10%. This effort (end to telecommuting for IT) is targetted at about 1500 (1%) employees. Many are biting the bullet and moving. Some have been able to locate new postions within the company. A very large percentage will leave HP. Most of the 1500 employees effected have been with the company a very long time. Most were with HP during the internet boom when the company was doling out multiple raises in a year in an attempt to keep talent while dot coms were very attractive. Thus, these employees are making FAR TOO MUCH money and it whacks HP's ability to reduce IT expenses to the desired target level. Once the "expensive" headcount is out-of-the way, there may be a return to normalcy. Don't be surprised, however, to see the tactic used in a few other of the companies areas. I'd be willing to bet on a return to "normal programming" in 24 months. Occupancy rates will become more important. Benefits related to fuel costs will attract talent coming out of education. Most remaining US-based IT employees (project managers, architects, technical leaders) do not work with other IT professionals. They work with business teams who report to other organizations for brief periods for a project. They then move to other projects and business teams. Ither IT professionals (developers, administrators) will be outsourced. So, to the current HP employee, I suggest patience and acceptance. For those that can (lots of years, but not enough to retire), consider split residence. The $2K per month may turn into an investment if you only have to do it 18 months. It's hard! Sorry for the ramble.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva