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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 Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:39AM (#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!

  • by tylernt ( 581794 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:50AM (#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.
  • telecommuting (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:51AM (#15466162)
    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 nothing is pressing on me hard I'm simply not disciplined enough. For this a work environment is great to keep focussed.

    2) Teamwork. I'm working in an international firm and it is working by and large, but Messanging, calls, emails only get you so far. Being able to walk 5 meters and chat someone up is completely different. It is very complicated to coordinate work over three continents and too many timezones.

    3) Teamwork Part 2, how will you develop something like Teamspirit and good cooperation if you have only seen most of your team a couple of times?

    4) line between work and home. I do work enough, when I'm coming home and can say so it's over let's go drink a beer or watch some TV, that's refreshing.

    So I'm all for flexibility but please don't overshoot.
  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:55AM (#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).

  • Teamwork? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Very.Zen ( 831087 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:57AM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:08AM (#15466233)
    If anyone can give me a citation for the following story, I'd be really grateful.

    Some time prior to 1990 I read a story about research done at HP on employee performance. They decided to find a correlation between employee performance and school performance. They found no correlation. It didn't matter where you went to school. It didn't matter how many degrees you had. It didn't matter what your marks were. That wasn't surprising. The Navy had discovered the same things many years previously. What was surprising was the discovery that the highest performing employees were the ones who hung around the water cooler.
    Gregarious people make better employees. If you put people together, you get better work. Laying off the people who won't come in to the office seems like quite a good move.
  • by Thing 1 ( 178996 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:19AM (#15466274) Journal
    Should singles who deliberately choose that lifestyle to be frugal receive less benefits?
  • by yoder ( 178161 ) * <progressivepenguin@gmail.com> on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:48AM (#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.
  • Re:It makes sense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bigman2003 ( 671309 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:51AM (#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:telecommuting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ckhorne ( 940312 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @11:20AM (#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.


    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). :)


    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.
  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @11:40AM (#15466628)
    Should singles who deliberately choose that lifestyle to be frugal receive less benefits?
    Japan, S. Korea, and many European countries are imploding [atimes.com] because too few choose to pass along the investment (food, housing, education, time) they received as children. There is a large economic payoff to childless individuals, yet a high cost to society overall if too many take that route. Families are what keep society going, so society has a vested interest in promoting family. No reason to turn it into a religious debate, just look at the demographics.
  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @11:47AM (#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.

  • Re:Teamwork? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bahwi ( 43111 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:08PM (#15466789)
    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 enviroment. Hell, there's less pointless chatter for me, so you've already got more time to work. People assume working from home, you don't have to put any effort into collaboration, when you actually do.

    Neither is better, it's a preference of what people prefer. But neither actually wins, either. There's several advantages, even with a lesser skilled group, because if you have a URL or link, you can easily send that back to them to RTFA. =) And yes, you can see their code, SVN, or, *gasp* copy and paste. =)
  • Totally hypocritical (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:46PM (#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.
  • Telecommuting... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ngwenya ( 147097 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:54PM (#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)
  • Re:It makes sense (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @02:23PM (#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).

Nothing is finished until the paperwork is done.