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

    by djsmiley ( 752149 ) <> on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:33AM (#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 anonymousman77 ( 584651 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:38AM (#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 suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:46AM (#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 JakiChan ( 141719 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:50AM (#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...
  • Homeboys (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jense ( 978975 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:53AM (#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.
  • Re:mad force.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NickBurns329 ( 797186 ) * on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:57AM (#15466187)
    Hmm .. I could not disagree more. I think, like the abuse of email with spam, telecommuting has been abused to the point where the Corporation (pick one) now realizes that people *do* work better face to face and yes, under some pressure to perform work. Now, I'm sure a substantial percentage of telecommuters work better, more hours, etc., than their face-time counterparts, but probably enough have abused this privilge to spoil it for those that can work effectively at home. Plus, I see this as a trend to where, the Corporation will evaluate you in the office setting first, before allowing you the luxury of a 5 second commute.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:05AM (#15466221)
    Yet another reason to boycott HP and it's crappy products.

    Anyone working in IT should cease recommending HP products immediately in a show of support to the HP employees being bent over by them on this.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:29AM (#15466323)
    Apples and oranges people. The difference between telecommuting and outsourcing is that in outsourcing there's still a company on the other end managing the workers. While in telecommuting there's just the employees. The HP and Apple situation aren't the same.
  • by raoul Pop ( 959233 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:31AM (#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: -telecommuting-for-its-it-division/ [].
  • 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" [].
  • IBM ads? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:51AM (#15466411)
    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.

  • by Smallpond ( 221300 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @11:01AM (#15466455) Homepage Journal
    In a big company, lack of communication can be a bigger obstacle to getting your job done than ability. The ones hanging around the bubbler might learn more about what's going on, and know who to call when they have a problem or need information. The ones grinding away in their cube just send stuff up the chain of command. And I know how weak the links can be in those chains.
  • by subterfuge ( 668314 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @11:15AM (#15466519)
    Very simple: is the work being completed on time and in an acceptable volume?

    If the answers are yes than you have an efficient telecommuter, if not , you don't. And if the manager can't get this through their cobweb filled head then THEY are not operating efficiently and should be replaced.

    This is just another case of beating on the worker because of ineffectual management.
  • by taosystems ( 930479 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @11:26AM (#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.
  • Re:telecommuting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pla ( 258480 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @11:27AM (#15466571) Journal
    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-5.


    ...Doesn't exist, at least not in the touchy-feely happy productivity boosting cooperation sense in which most companies believe. Teamwork in IT means spending as little time physically together as possible, coming up with a solid API, and everyone goes off and implements their alloted portion of it. Anything more intimate than that (like the farce they call "paired programming") just pisses developers off and wastes multiple people for each one-man job.

    And when I do need to get together with my coworkers, I can phone or IM them in less time than it would take me to walk down the insanely long hallway around which all companies seem to design offices, to physically visit that coworker. And even in the office, I get far, far more calls and IMs than actual visitors. And, even in the off chance that we need a physical meeting, I have no problem with the idea of coming into the office once a week to take care of such business - that doesn't mean I need to stay there the other four days of the work week to efficiently do my job.

    how will you develop something like Teamspirit and good cooperation

    "Team" has no "I" in it. Remember that. Let's keep it that way.

    I go to work to do a job (which I happen to enjoy) and get paid. Period. I don't go there to make friends (though I do have friends with whom I work), I don't go there to win a game-called-commerce, I don't go there for the sake of getting out of the house every day. I go there to get a paycheck. So spare me the "yay us!" and "go team!" and "now fall backward and we'll catch you" team spirit BS - Just leave me the hell alone and let me do the work you want done.

    line between work and home

    See point #1 - Personal discipline. If you have it, no problems here. If you lack it, don't ask to telecommute.
  • Yep (Score:5, Insightful)

    by umbrellasd ( 876984 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @11:47AM (#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 fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @11:59AM (#15466732)
    >How can you measure efficiency if the guy works at home? That's the problem.

    Some jobs have a direct, measurable effect on the bottom line. Bet they aren't the ones being cut.
  • by CrazyTalk ( 662055 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:01PM (#15466738)
    Hmmm married workers more valuable? That is, until they have to leave work early to pick up their kids and take them to soccer practice, call of sick because their kids are sick, talk on the phone all day planning their upcoming vacations to disney world, etc. while the single people in the office are left holding the bag. More valuable? I think not. Then again, I did see your smiley so hopefully you are joking and/or a troll!
  • Bad Move (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pandrijeczko ( 588093 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:21PM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:41PM (#15466953)
    If you're working at a huge company like HP, you're not that sort of person. You're mediocre, that's why you're there.
    You could also be a highly intelligent and motivated person who went to HP (for example) because the job was well sold to them - come to us because only we can offer you the opportunity to do anything you like. And not have to do accounts, make the coffee, find new office space when your garage company expands. And the often received wisdom of "having company X on your resume is never a bad thing".
    You're a person who wants security.
    Hah. Some hope. Though at least you have more control being a self-starter because if you fail and have no money to pay the bills, its largely your fault rather than due to some crap decision by a higher up drone who needed to show how many dollars he saved the company this quarter.

    The industry is also plagued by lone gun, play it fast and loose 'entrepreneurs' who love a bit of hacking around to produce a neato techie solution, but which is entirely inappropriate for their large clients. They often leave them with clever but unsupported solutions. These people arrive full of talent but no idea about big businesses, or the end requirement to provide a service to that business - which might be based on their clever clever software package.

    The large IT consultancies play well with large businesses because they are 'like them' and understand the full range of their requirements (including the client's personal position within their organisation). Whilst they have a range of technical skills (from poor through mediocre to brilliant), they also end up with some idea of end users and the IT departments which serve them.
  • by hazem ( 472289 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:50PM (#15467002) Journal
    I'd say married workers are more pliable, more risk-averse, more likely to put up with a shitty work situation, and more likely to "go along to get along".

    While losing a job is tough on anyone, a single person can quit to leave a shitty situation and only be putting themselves at risk. A married person with kids is likely to be more docile because if they quit/get fired, they have to take care of the spouse and rug-rats.

    So, of course management likes married people with kids, as it's a shackle they didn't even have to pay for.
  • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:22PM (#15467192) Journal
    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 conclusion that none of them are considered "high" enough "performers" to be worth extra benefits. (How mysterious.)

    Of course, the management response to this problem, since of course we can't have some people being better than others at the same status level, is to finish completely eliminating telecommuting.

    What gets me about the management blunders that everybody loves to hate is not that they occur; we blunder through a world complicated beyond our faintest ability to handle except rarely by accident, so stupid decisions are the norm. What gets me is, despite that, how predictable these management blunders are and just how poor the response is in general. The same problem is faced thousands of times a year, and almost everybody tasked with solving it will try the exact same (wrong) solution, because "more control" is always the answer (regardless of the competence of the "controllers", regardless of the effectiveness), and (the part that really boggles my mind) almost none of them will look around to see who else has tried that solution and what unanticipated consequences may arise, even though umpteen millions or billions of dollars may be at stake.
  • by MarcoAtWork ( 28889 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:37PM (#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.
  • by mpaque ( 655244 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @05:29PM (#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 []), 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...)
  • Re:It makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by achurch ( 201270 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @06:29PM (#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.

  • by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @07:23PM (#15468882) Homepage Journal
    Society wouldn't "implode". You're implying a lower birthrate means a society disappears, which is mathematically silly. A lower birthrate means the population shrinks for a few generations, then stablizes with lower numbers, which is a GOOD THING.

    Sounds like someone needs to go back to school.

    Believe it or not, a lower birthrate DOES mean a society disappears in exponential decay. Some mathematician figured that at the current rate, there'll be like 13 Japanese people by 2500 or 3000 or something.

    Negative population growth will be a much bigger issue in the next hundred years than overpopulation.

    We've too many people on the planet, eating up too many resources, killing too much life, producing killer pollution.


    You know our current problem with food is having too much production, right? The famines ever since the Green Revolution have been caused by political issues, not by actual lack of crops.

    The countries with reduced population will be winners, and the cancerously growing populations of doomed countries will self-destruct in the usual Malthusian manner

    Ah, yes, there it is. I thought you sounded like a Malthusian. Which is great and all, except Malthus has been proven wrong. Repeatedly. He made some fundamental mistakes in his assumptions, and unfortunately for everyone, fools have been repeating these same mistakes for 200 years.

    Having a small population is a recipe for disaster in a country.

    Countries with reduced populations have never been winners in history in the long run. Even small countries who have done well, like the Netherlands, have eventually been eclipsed by the bigger countries. It is critical to have at least a small amount of population in the world, for a variety of reasons.

    The causes of the horsemen are not political in the truest sense; population pressure is always the root cause.

    Like most of Malthusian beliefs, this one is demonstrably false. I'd be curious to see how you'd try to relate something like the Vietnam War to population pressures in America and the USSR.

    Nothing, no organism, can grow ceaselessly.

    This is the core fallacy that is the root of all the problems with Malthusian beliefs.

    Humans are not organisms, beyond the scientific definition. We don't fit into the K or R population models that all creatures, from flies to baboons fall into. Humans are unique. Why? It's simple: humans make their own food. And the birth rate drops as humans get more food (or are more successful over all), which is the opposite of what you see in the animal kingdom.

    If you are really concerned about overpopulation, which I guess you might be even though you're not very well informed, the best thing you could do is work to build a strong middle class world-wide.

    At some point, it poisons the environment with its own effluent and kills off both room to live and the food supply.

    More tripe. Unlike animals, humans build things called Sewer Systems. Have been doing it for a while; you might want to look into it some time.

    Humans who maintain a steady state population, intelligently, will have resources to live and to educate, while those who do not will inevitably collapse into warfare, disease, ignorance and (usually religious) totalitarianism through sheer desperation.

    No... they'll invade the countries with the smaller populations and take them over. Religious Totalitarianism? I'd say radical communist dictatorships are a bigger issue. Consider the famine in Ethiopia. We had enough food to feed the people -- the communism is why over a million people died.

    They will be the danger to to the planet, already warming and drying under the strain of a population doubling every two generations.

    More than half the world lives in countries that aren't producing enough babies to replace their population. If the very deep and serious problems in Africa ever get solved (and I think
  • by really? ( 199452 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @07:38PM (#15468944)
    You haven't lived in any of the mentioned countries, I would guess. The level of racism in places like Japan and Korea would never allow that. (I spent 15+ years in the area, and I know - I think I know, anyway - what I am talking about. Although, I must admit, I have only experienced blatant in-your-face discrimination twice. I used to hear HORROR stories from foreigners in Japan all the time.)

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.