IBM has a long history of letting its employees work from home—or wherever they darn well please—starting in the 1980s. By 2009, 40% of IBM's 386,000 employees were working from home, saving the company about $100 million a year on office space in the US. But those days are ending. Quartz has a deep look into what happens when an innovator in remote work decides it's time to come back to the office. In a February announcement titled "It's time for Act II: WINNING!" IBM's new chief marketing officer informed thousands of marketing department employees they would have to start working from one of six IBM offices around the country. Some of those employees would have move to make that work. If they couldn't uproot their lives, they could quit.
The marketing department wasn't the first to kill off remote work at IBM. It was preceded by the design, security, and procurement departments; big chunks of the IT department; and a bunch of teams working on Watson projects. While studies have shown working from home can actually make employees more productive, one expert says IBM needs more than productivity in the midst of a long slide; it needs innovation. And innovation, according to the current prevailing thinking, happens when people work together in one place. But that doesn't mean employees, including at least one who's worked from home for decades, are happy about suddenly having a commute. "Everyone I know is very upset," one employee says. Others believe the move away from remote working is just covert downsizing. Read the full story here.