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HP Cuts Back on Telecommuting

There have been some differing opinions and reaction to a story that HP is cutting back on telecommuting for its internal IT folks. After being held up as an example to the World of the advantages of telecommuting this is a bit of an about face driven by HP's new CIO, Randy Mott.

It's always easy to second guess why decisions are made, and I'm sure Mr. Mott has good reason for his move. It's also easy to see why people are upset about a change that may have a big personal impact. Some people are being asked to move to be close to one of HP's twenty-five IT locations.

The benefits of telecommuting have been touted for many years, decreased office space costs, less travel time, positive environmental impact because of less commuting etc. There are roles that really can operate independently, and there are people who would much sooner the company of their screen and computer than other human beings.

However, there are also benefits to the interaction between people. There are synergies that happen when people share problems and work together to solve them. There is also the very human tendency for people to take advantage of situations ... the old saying "Give them an inch and they take a mile" can, in my experience be applied more often than not. I don't think the majority of people have the discipline to work from home without distraction. That seems to be borne out by some of the stories in the article and associated feedback.

I would, however be surprised if the best answer was a "one size fits all" solution. By swinging the pendulum all the way to the other side Mr. Mott is creating a big issue, when perhaps there could be a middle ground solution. If the result is the loss of key employees, at a time when skill shortages are returning, then the expected gains will not be realized. Indeed this pill might become a little hard to swallow.