IBM Says Get Back to the Office

According to an article today which I found through The News Funnel, IBM has issued an edict that all employees in certain divisions must either abandon their home work spaces and relocate to a regional office. If not, they can find another job with another company. Interesting news considering IBM sells products that enable people to work from anywhere at any time.

This comes on the heels of a recent announcement of a deal with WeWork at 88 University Place where IBM will occupy the entire WeWork space. What this really means is that WeWork is designing and managing the office for IBM as part of their Enterprise Division.

As I read today’s article, it’s clear that they have figured out what Yahoo and others have. While some employees might get more done working from home, there’s one thing that suffers above all else:


 I remember a few years ago listening to a member of the Johnson & Johnson real estate team explain their new (at the time) workplace strategy. It was rooted in the fact that the company viewed itself as an innovation company above all else. Collaboration was important to its corporate culture and fostering that innovative spirit. To that end, they wanted their employees in an office. It didn’t matter which one, as long as they could work with their team. They wanted to create work environments that made it an easy decision for their employees to choose being in the office rather than at home or at Starbucks.

Connecting the dots, it seems that IBM believes that WeWork can help them create an environment that employees will flock to.

I am lucky to work for a company that not only provides a collaborative, open work environment, but also the tools to work anywhere. As I type this, I am in my home office, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, as my entire team is working remotely today.

Our Workplace Strategy group preaches that there is no one solution for all companies. Without getting into the DNA, seeing how people work and interact, and discussing the goals of the company with key stakeholders, it’s impossible to make recommendations on how a space should be designed or how a company should work to achieve maximum efficiency.

As a company, we know that it’s important to work together at times and we have an office environment that reflects that. We also know how important is it to have the technology tools we need when we visit clients and our platform supports a mobile workforce. CBRE has invested tremendously in our Workplace 360 program and I couldn’t be a bigger advocate.

IBM made a tough decision after being one of the first and strongest supporters of working remotely. Their technology tools allowed many of their teams to function at a very high level without being in the same place at the same time. However, it’s the accidental interactions that sometimes create the greatest results. They are clearly looking to shake up the culture, encouraging people who want to remain out of the office to either leave the company or apply for another job with a different business group.

For now, many of IBM’s employees will head back to the office. For those that have been with the company for a long time, I doubt it will look the same as it did the last time they were there.

Are you thinking about collaboration? Are you designing your office to be a place that people look forward to working in? Is your office an employee/talent attraction and retention tool? If not, maybe it’s time to rethink your workplace strategy.