Web Stories Friday, March 1

IBM has given managers an ultimatum: Come into the office or leave.

The technology firm is pushing for an end to remote work, telling US-based managers to immediately report in-person or exit their role, according to an internal January 16th memo from senior vice president John Granger viewed by Bloomberg.

Executives and managers will now be expected to be in-person at least three days a week, and remote workers living more than 50 miles from an office have until August to relocate closer with few exceptions such as employees with medical issues or military service.

The return-to-work push is complicated by the company’s efforts in recent years to cut down on real estate.

A number of IBM office shave shuttered since the pandemic, putting some remote workers in a position where they may be forced to move large distances in order to keep their employment. Closed offices include Philadelphia, central New York State and Iowa.

The consulting firm says all unwilling to comply will have to “separate from IBM” and that badge-in data will be used to track office attendance and confirm compliance with the new policy.

IBM’s shift away from remote work has been steadily increasing since the pandemic. Individual teams have already enacted in-person policies, and chief executive officer Arvind Krishna has been vocal about his preference for office attendance.

In an interview in May to Bloomberg, Krishna said promotions would be less likely for off-site workers- though he also said workers would not be forced back in.

Krishna also said that the company plans to use AI to replace 7,800 jobs over the next five years.

While IBM pushes for employees to come back in, the company is simultaneously expecting to make job reductions.

Announcing fourth quarter results last week, chief financial officer James Kavanaugh said the company will spend around the same amount as last year on restructuring (IBM slashed 3,900 jobs in January 2023) but that IBM is hiring and headcount should be around the same by the end of the year.

IBM is not alone in pushing its employees back to the office- though many CEOs are letting up on the battle to get employees to return to the office full-time, five days a week, according to a CEO survey from The Conference Board.

Just 4% of US CEOs and 4% of CEOs worldwide say they will prioritize bringing workers back to the office full time, the survey found. Instead, attracting and retaining talent is the top internal priority for business leaders. The Conference Board surveyed more than 1,200 executives, including 630 CEOs, across the United States, Latin America, Japan and Europe.

But that doesn’t mean some US companies aren’t taking a hardline stance in the new year. UPS recently announced it is ditching its hybrid work policy, and it’s now calling corporate employees back full time, five days a week. The policy will begin March 4, according to an internal memo shared with CNN. <THIS IS FROM RAMISHAH’s WRITE

Toward the latter half of 2023, major companies announced they were getting stricter on office work — but notably didn’t announce a full return. In August, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said employees who don’t adhere to the 3-days-a-week in office rule could see their days at the tech giant numbered.

Meta last year told employees that, after Labor Day, managers would track attendance for its own 3-day-a-week policy. Even Zoom, which powered the work from home (WFH) era, called its employees back into the office.

But if a full-time return to office is dying, its antithesis may be as well. An EY US survey of C-suite corporate leaders found that full-time remote work plummeted from 34% in 2022 to just 1% in 2023. Scott noted senior members of companies are in the office more often. The study also noted that hybrid work is “firmly established.”

Additional reporting by CNN’s Ramishah Maruf.

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