HP Ends Telecommuting Program, Shocks Employees and Experts

June 9, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Computer giant Hewlett-Packard announced that it is terminating its telecommuting program for information-technology employees, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

HP, one of the first companies to offer telecommuting in the 1960s, will require its workers from 100 sites worldwide to report to 25 designated offices for a majority of the week, the Mercury News reported.

Many of the 79 best employers, according to a Fortune magazine survey done in early 2006, allow employees to telecommute or work at home at least 20% of the time (See Work Matters at FORTUNE’S Top Employers ).

Anonymous employees told the newspaper that workers who refuse the move will be terminated without severance pay, though another anonymous employee said that HP offered to pay some expenses for IT employees relocating from distances more than 50 miles.

The company’s Chief Information Officer Randy Mott enacted the rule, which will go into effect by August to strengthen the IT team, who run company computers and databases, as well as build Web sites and applications. Mott, who has been CIO for less than a year, told the newspaper that he wants to make IT workers more effective as a group, especially new workers.

HP posted a new release in September 2002 of the results of a survey of telecommuters who have trouble concentrating at home, recognizing the “biggest barriers to work productivity at home.”

According to the news release, “more than half (60%) of respondents reported that ‘family needs’ and ‘personal chores and errands’ are the biggest barriers to work productivity at home.”

But on May 13, 2006, the company posted a study that encouraged employees to use teleconferencing “whenever possible” to reduce harmful emissions from transportation and to cut costs. The company reported that it had 11,400 employees working from home offices.

“We estimate that in 2005, the Telework program saved over 2 million round-trip commutes in the United States and Canada, avoiding approximately 57 million miles of road travel and reducing GHG emissions by more than 24,000 tonnes of CO 2 ,” according to the report. “While the United States and Canada represents the largest portion of our program, more than 2,300 employees outside of the United States and Canada are telecommuters.”

Gartner Group, an IT research and advisory company, estimated that more than 80 million workers worldwide worked from home at least one day per month in 2005, according to a February 2006 article from Info World Media Group’s Web site. Almost a quarter of all corporate workers in the US telecommuted one day a month in 2005.

But, the Info World article reported, Gartner expects the growth of telecommuting to slow because, even though technology has advanced so that telecommuters can be as or more effective as regular workers, a telecommuting surge post-September 11 is slowing.