IBM recently instituted a new policy requiring its software engineers worldwide to work from the office at least 3 days per week. Managers at IBM believe more in-person collaboration is necessary to "achieve company goals" like tripling development output and winning new clients, according to an internal blog post by IBM Software executives Kareem Yusuf and Dinesh Nirmal.
The mandate will first apply to employees living within 50 miles of an IBM office. Those living farther away are "exempt at this time," suggesting they too may eventually be required to commute into IBM offices. The return-to-office orders will be implemented in accordance with local laws.
IBM stated that currently only 1 in 4 of its software engineers come into the office 3 days a week. By October, IBM wants to increase that to 3 in 4 engineers in the office at least 3 days weekly. To support this transition, each IBM office is designating an executive as a point of contact.
IBM is the latest in a series of technology companies calling workers back to offices after many employees worked remotely during the pandemic. While companies argue on-site work increases productivity and collaboration, research by Atlassian indicates that mandated return-to-office policies often damage morale and stifle innovation.
At IBM specifically, managers have suggested they prefer overseeing employees in-person, which risks attrition among engineers who want location flexibility. Recent surveys show 80% of executives who enforced return-to-office policies later regretted the decision. As IBM moves forward, it will need to carefully weigh employee sentiments.