Browse Tag: Telecommuting

Telecommuting Turnaround: IBM Changes Its Tune On Remote Working

Home office

Telecommuting or remote working enabled by technology and online access has long been a commercial real estate market worry. The phenomenon of employees skipping on commutes and avoiding distant offices has raised fears of a softening national demand of office space since at least 1996. As reported by Global Workplace Analytics, regular remote working at home among the non-self-employed population has grown by 103% since 2005. From 2013 to 2014, the population of all employees grew 1.9% while the population of telecommuters grew 5.6%,  putting the growth in telecommuting employees at more than double the rate of all employees.

Anecdotally, the telecommuting trend has contributed to disruption of office space demand patterns over the years, depending on locality. Also, we’ve covered the telecommuting trend here at CRE Blog before.  While it is tough to put the effect of remote working into terms of a market’s absorption rate or development pipeline, the technology industry’s line about remote working has been more or less unchanging, touting reducing real estate costs and overhead as a boon to tenants and space consumers.

But now, one of remote working’s chief technological enablers has decided it won’t be “eating its own dog food” after all. IBM has taken the dimmest possible view on telecommuting for its own business, proclaiming that its employees must return to their offices or find work elsewhere. As reported by Ars Technica, the tech giant has nearly 40% of its workforce under remote work policy, and that policy is coming to a close.  This week is the deadline for those employees to return to their cubicles with Big Blue, or, alternatively, to leave the employ of the upstate NY-headquartered company.

Clients whose business operations include significant telecommuting might well take note about the distinct split in IBM’s very recent remote working advocacy vs. its practice. Will that mean a reclaiming of unused rented space, or will it mean a hunt for new digs?  Only great relationships with your clients will give you the business intelligence to know where the remote working saga is headed.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yahoo! and WSJ: Working From Home Is A Dead-End Job

Office landlords and managers: if the telecommuting boom and its attendant declines in demand for office space in some markets have got you down, this week has two pieces of good news.

1) Tech giant Yahoo! announced this week that it would no longer allow a telecommuting workforce.  New CEO Marissa Meyer rolled out the policy with an announcement from HR head Jackie Reses ending all “remote” work in a memo from to the search company’s 11,500 employees:

To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.

Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration. Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.

It is left to the commercial real estate professional to conclude wether or not upward lease adjustments for your property’s office hallways and cafeterias are justified in the wake of the announcement.

2) The Wall Street Journal has released a Marketwatch video wherein a study is touted that found that work-at-home careers are easily stalled.  Telecommuting mployees of a Chinese company studied were found to be 50% less likely to be promoted when compared to in-house workers.


Market and technological change is hard to handle or predict, and sometimes a trend truly stalls, then reverses. Do these items constitute a trend against telecommuting?  If I had to bet, I’d say no. It’s a bit tough to see these two examples — a B-team search company and a firm situated in a completely different culture than that of the US — as indicative of much going forward.    For commercial properties professionals looking to get in front of the changes, I’d advise looking into the burgeoning shared workspace market rather than expecting technology to stop disrupting traditional office space demand patterns.

Out Of The Office: Where Are The Telecommuting Jobs?

Staying on top of the macro trends in office space markets means watching a lot of factors.  In terms of disruptive change, I think the biggest story is a technology-driven and culturally-driven decline in demand for traditional office workspaces. Telecommuting, shared and temporary workspaces and wireless internet access are genuinely reshaping the expectations of the marketplace from within and without.  Add in generational expectations — recent grads, weaned on constant access to the internet don’t see tethers of any kind in a favorable light, nor cubicle farms as necessary, let alone desirable — and you have a genuine transformation in progress.

Increasingly, employers are keeping pace with the new realities by tailoring business models to leverage the newly-arrived options in staffing, location, infrastructure and support.  This can be teased out from the background by tracking the number and concentration of telework, or telecommuting jobs.

It wouldn’t be fair to say that an area’s rise in telecommuting always leads to a decline in traditional office space demand.  Beyond any single statewide or national trend lies local circumstances that dictate.  Then again, knowing what your state is experiencing becomes critical as time goes on to get an early understanding of the evolving business needs of clients on both sides of the landlord/tenant negotiating table.

Telework Research Network is a team that stays on top of the general area, and they’ve published a heck of an infographic on where the “flex jobs” are, and what they can be.(Follow the link to get the full-sized image.)  Long story short: Florida, Texas, California, Illinois, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York  and Massachusetts are leading the pack in redefining the workplace economy — and with it, office space markets.