Hewlett Packard cancels telecommuting for the major company division. At the moment HP drops telecommuting for one division only. It was a shock for the employees and HR managers: the company was a pioneer of the telecommuting work approach.
Reasons? The company management believes that in-office information technology staff will be swifter and smarter. One more reason – it is a good way to train inexperienced and new personnel. Here are the details:
In an office, “you’re able to put teams together that can learn very aggressively and rapidly from each other,” said the architect of the HP division’s change, Randy Mott. He is regarded by Wall Street as a mastermind of operational efficiency based on his days as chief information officer at Wal-Mart Stores and Dell.
IT workers generally support their companies by keeping computers and databases running and building Web sites and applications. Some can do their jobs without talking to co-workers more than once a day. And the more interactive IT jobs at HP typically involve early morning and late-night conference calls with colleagues around the world.
By August, almost all of HP’s IT employees will have to work in one of 25 designated offices during most of the week. With many thousands of HP IT employees scattered across 100 sites around the world — from Palo Alto to Dornach, Germany — the new rules require many to move. Those who don’t will be out of work without severance pay, according to several employees affected by the changes.
Mott’s changes underscore HP’s determination to free itself from what new executives view as cumbersome costs and an outdated corporate culture.
Flexible work arrangements began at HP in 1967 as a core part of the company’s widely respected management philosophy. In the book “The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company,” HP co-founder David Packard wrote: “To my mind, flextime is the essence of respect for and trust in people. It says that we both appreciate that our people have busy personal lives and that we trust them to devise, with their supervisor and work group, a schedule that is personally convenient yet fair to others.”
Sun Microsystems, an HP competitor, now allows about 17,000 employees to work from home, including 83 percent of its IT staff. And an April survey by the Society for Human Resource Management shows the number of employers now offering telecommuting as an option to combat surging gas prices climbed 50 percent compared with eight months earlier.
Working from home also has been catching on over the past five years as technologies — such as high-speed and wireless Internet access — have made it easier for colleagues located anywhere to collaborate.
But one of HP’s former IT managers, who left the company in October, said a few employees abused the flexible work arrangements and could be heard washing dishes or admitted to driving a tractor during conference calls about project updates. The former manager, who declined to be identified because he still has ties with HP, said telecommuting morphed from a strategic tool used to keep exceptional talent into a right that employees claimed.
Mott confirmed he’s sending IT workers into offices, but he would not discuss the details. He added that employees who are working side by side in the same office “are the most effective in terms of accomplishing the task and the goals at hand.”
Some experts agree even high-tech communication tools, from instant-messaging emoticons to video-conference calls, can’t match in-person interaction.
“There’s a certain synergy when people are together in a room,” said Avramidis, the management association executive.
A small fraction of HP’s top-performing IT employees still will be able to telecommute. The others need to start packing. HP has offered to pay some relocation expenses for IT employees who live more than 50 miles from a designated office, according to an IT employee who qualifies for a relocation package.
That employee, who has worked at HP for about 20 years, said that’s not enough to move her family from the East Coast to the office designated for her in California. And she cringes at uprooting her children and forcing her husband to find a new job — especially as more layoffs loom at HP.
Time will show if HP has chosen the right way, but no doubt this move will make many companies more cautious with introducing telecommuting jobs.
[tags]telecommute, telecommuting jobs, freelance, work from home, home job, hp, Hewlett Packard[/tags]