IBM Demands Workers Return to the Office, Starting Today

IBM is the latest big tech firm to issue a return to office mandate, according to an internal company blog post.

IBM is the latest big tech firm to issue a return to office mandate, telling employees within 50 miles of a company office to be at their desks at least three days a week starting today.

While there are still plenty of companies that offer remote working, the overall industry trend now seems to be toward a hybrid model, with Big Blue joining fellow tech giants Apple, Google and Meta in issuing the return to office call.

News of IBM’s move comes by way of an internal company blog post dated last week, in which senior executives from its software division put staff on notice of the new requirement and attempt to explain the corporate thinking behind it.

IBM Wants Staff To Have “More Meaningful Time” Together

News of IBM’s return to office mandate comes by way of an internal company blog post seen by the The Reg. Dated September 5, it’s attributed to IBM Software Senior VP for Product Management, Kareem Yusuf, and Senior VP for Products, Dinesh Nirmal.

The executive duo emphasize to staff that they’re “setting the tone” at IBM and that they “must be better stewards of getting into the office” if they want to preserve flexible hybrid working as a whole.

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The timeline? IBM employees have scarcely had time to say goodbye to their cat, with the mandate coming into force with just a week’s notice, meaning it kicks off today.

“Starting next week, all IBM Software employees will be required to spend at least 3 days in the office each week. The decision on which days will be left to managers and individual project teams,” the blog adds.

Improved Productivity Behind Shift

As often seems to be the case with corporate return to office mandates, there’s a strong suggestion in IBM’s internal blog that improving productivity is one of the primary motivations for suddenly enforcing physical office time.

“It is vital to our culture and our shared goals – tripling development output, building winning products, and winning new clients – that we spend more meaningful time together, in-person,” the executives write.

What that means in practice is that IBM expects the majority of its software employees to dust off their slacks and be back in the office more often than not over the next few weeks.

“Right now, 1 in 4 of you are working in the office three days a week. By October, we want to see that number closer to 3 in 4. We appreciate your attention and support,” Yusuf and Nirmal say.

In order to help achieve this, IBM will apparently be appointing “Software Executive Focals,” which is code for in-office staff tasked with encouraging their co-workers to make a more “concerted effort” to spend time in the office. Hall monitors, basically.

Some IBM Staff Exempt – For Now

IBM’s return to office mandate is applicable to employees that live within 50 miles of an IBM office. Anyone who lives further is “exempt at this time” from the directive, though the language here suggests it’s only a matter of time.

The blog notes that local employment laws will also be taken into account for the mandate, as it applies globally, with schedules of office days to be determined by managers on an individual team and project basis.

At present, it’s unclear if IBM is planning to implement the return to office mandate for the entire company, or if it will stay confined to the software division. It’s also unknown how IBM plans to monitor its return to office push, beyond individual managers and the specially designated staff for each its physical locations.

Watch this space, as return to office mandates tend to have a habit of precipitating further tech layoffs, as there are typically some staff unwilling to comply with such measures.

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Written by:
James Laird is a technology journalist with 10+ years experience working on some of the world's biggest websites. These include TechRadar, Trusted Reviews, Lifehacker, Gizmodo and The Sun, as well as industry-specific titles such as ITProPortal. His particular areas of interest and expertise are cyber security, VPNs and general hardware.
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