IBM CEO Says Remote Work Can Hurt Your Career


IBM CEO, Arvind Krishna, said working from home is suitable for some roles but those who aspire to move up the ranks need to be in an office. He’s not forcing any of the company’s remote workers to come into the office just yet, but warns those who don’t “would be hard-pressed to get promoted, especially into managerial roles.”

“Being a people manager when you’re remote is just tough because if you’re managing people, you need to be able to see them once in a while. It doesn’t need to be every minute. You don’t need to function under those old ‘Everybody’s under my eye’ kind of rules, but at least sometimes.” Arvind Krishna

He described IBM´s return-to-office policy as “we encourage you to come in, we expect you to come in, we want you to come in. At least three days a week.”

Krishna said remote arrangements are best suited for specific “individual contributor” roles like customer service or software programmers. “In the short term, you probably can be equally productive, but your career does suffer,” he said. “Moving from there to another role is probably less likely because nobody’s observing them in another context.”

Krishna, who became CEO right after the pandemic hit in April 2020, said people make a choice to work remotely, but it need not be “a forever choice — it could be a choice based on convenience or circumstance.”

He assures remote workers don’t learn how to do things like deal with a difficult client or how to make trade-offs when designing a new product. “I don’t understand how to do all that remotely,” he said.

At this moment, about 80% of IBM’s employees work from home at least some of the time.


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