May 6, 2023
“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” - Steve Jobs (1955-2011), American business magnate and investor. Founder of Apple.
Covid imposed on the world the concept of working from home. Its eclipse now confronts us with the question: “What do we do now? Many business leaders have responded to the challenge in different ways. One of the latest is Arvind Krishna, IBM CEO, as per an article by Bloomberg excerpted below.
IBM CEO Arvind Krishna warns employees who work remotely: 'Your career does suffer'
IBM CEO Arvind Krishna's comments add to the growing debate over the merits of remote versus in-person/on-site work. About 80% of IBM’s employees work from home at least some of the time, Krishna said.
The CEO of IBM, whose hybrid-cloud computing business has benefited from the rise of remote work, said he’s not forcing any staffers to come into the office just yet, but those who don’t would be hard-pressed to get promoted, especially into managerial roles. He has a message for the 260,000 employees of International Business Machines Corp.: Remote work can be hazardous to your career. The CEO of IBM, whose hybrid-cloud computing business has benefited from the rise of remote work, said he’s not forcing any staffers to come into the office just yet, but those who don’t would be hard-pressed to get promoted, especially into managerial roles.
“Being a people manager when you're remote is just tough because if you're managing people, you need to be able to see them once in a while,” he said. “It doesn't need to be every minute. You don't need to function under those old ‘Everybody's under my eye’ kind of rules, but at least sometimes.”
Krishna’s comments add to the growing debate over the merits of remote versus in-person work, with some CEOs arguing that workers — particularly younger staff — need to be on site more often than not for learning and mentorship opportunities, while other experts point to research showing that workers are happier and even more productive when they have the opportunity to work from home. Office-based staff, though, spend 25% more time in career-development activities than their remote counterparts, according to data from economists who track work-from-home trends.
“It seems to me that we work better when we are together in person,” said Krishna, who described the company’s return-to-office policy as “we encourage you to come in, we expect you to come in, we want you to come in.” Three days a week is the number they encourage, he said.
Among US employees who can work from home, nearly half have hybrid arrangements, according to data from a team of economists who have tracked the topic since the pandemic began. Just one in five are fully remote, with the rest in the office full time. Working from home is most common in the technology and professional services sectors that IBM competes in, the data also show. But with layoffs rising and job openings declining, some workers are concerned that working from home could affect their job security.
While about 80% of IBM’s employees work from home at least some of the time, Krishna said remote arrangements are best suited for specific “individual contributor” roles like customer service or software programmers. “In the short term you probably can be equally productive, but your career does suffer,” he said. “Moving from there to another role is probably less likely because nobody's observing them in another context. It will be tougher. ”
Krishna, who became CEO right after the pandemic hit in April 2020, said people make a choice to work remotely, but it need not be “a forever choice — it could be a choice based on convenience or circumstance.” Remote workers, he said, don’t learn how to do things like deal with a difficult client, or how to take trade-offs when designing a new product. “I don't understand how to do all that remotely,” he said.
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