IBM recently announced that telecommuting from home or the local coffee shop is no longer an option and that the 152,000 of its 380,000 employees currently tapping away on computers from the master bedroom or the local coffee shop need to get back to the office pronto or hit the bricks.
One of the pioneers in the work-from-home concept, IBM conceded that the work-where-you-want initiative didn’t work, so Big Blue is blowing its corporate conch shell and calling all of its employees back to the reef “to improve employee collaboration and productivity.”
I was employed by IBM for many years, but left the company before it initiated its telecommunicating program. Even though I was never offered the opportunity to work from home, I was fortunate enough not to have ever suffered a Dilbert-like cubicle existence either. My work space always had a door and walls and my supervisors expected me to occupy that space Monday through Friday, and during emergencies and special projects.
If I had asked to work from home my bosses would have looked at me like I had just broken out in open sores. The folks I worked for and with were all former newspaper, wire service and magazine editors and reporters, and we were all grateful to be working indoors and didn’t want to risk rocking the boat.
I liked having creative and fun folks around me to bounce ideas off, and after IBM promoted me to management I would get frustrated when I couldn’t find a member of my staff when I needed his or her opinion and assistance or wanted an audience for a joke. My bosses felt the same way when I disappeared to conduct “media relations” at a local tavern. There were no cell phones or Internet in those days so we were blissfully unaware of any crisis causing mayhem back in the office.
There is something about face-to-face communications that makes it more effective than emails, phone calls and texting. Disgraced former Congressman Anthony “Carlos Danger” Weiner (D-NY) can certainly testify to that, and in fact recently did so, but that’s another story.
Prior to joining IBM I was a reporter for daily newspapers in Florida and upstate New York, where the only people that had offices with a door and windows were the publishers, who I rarely saw. To this day I still have no idea what they did.
At the newspapers my work space consisted of a battered desk in the middle of a smoke-filled, crowded and chaotic newsroom, and my tools a manual typewriter, a rotary telephone, a few pencils, blank paper, a couple of notepads, and a jar of paste. I never had anything important enough to put in the drawers of my desk except a few cans of beer.
Collaboration was hollering a question across the newsroom and meetings were guys huddling to tell dirty jokes that they didn’t want the gals in the Women’s Department to overhear. If you were working from home, it meant you were mailing out resumes because you were looking for a job in an office building somewhere. And if you lived in Florida, you definitely wanted a job indoors, preferably one that involved air conditioning.
When I left the newspaper business to join IBM’s External and Internal Communications organization — the folks that answer media questions, write and distribute press releases, company newsletters, write speeches, etc. — I was provided an office with a door and walls to hang pictures. I didn’t have any pictures, so one of the lawyers I befriended down the hall gave me one, a reproduction of a water color painting of an 18th Century judge. I still have it.
After the cacophony of the newsroom it took a while for me to get used to the silence in the halls of IBM. Initially I found it hard to concentrate surrounded by all that quiet. The folks at IBM then all wore dark suits, ties and white shirts, even some of the gals. And, as my wife, a former kindergarten teacher would say: “They used their inside voices.” It was a big adjustment from the loud, chaotic newsroom with the clacking and bell ringing teletype machines, numerous conversations, ringing phones, and editors yelling for copy to meet multiple daily deadlines.
At IBM I requested a typewriter and was provided an IBM Selectric with a little ball that had all the letters, numbers and symbols on it that I would ever need. It was the first electric typewriter I ever used and to me it was magic. At my last newspaper job before joining IBM the s on my manual typewriter didn’t work, so I had to go through all my copy and edit them in with a pencil. Things don’t get fixed very fast at newspapers. I complained for several months and finally gave up and learned to live with no s. It was like all my copy had a lisp.
At my new job I discovered that when I pressed down on any one key of my new Selectric typewriter too long it just kept on spitting out that letter, like bullets out of a machine gun. I had row upon row of s’s, all the s’s I would ever need in a lifetime. My first piece of copy had lots of very long words that weren’t pronounceable and weren’t in the dictionary.
There was a very attractive and pleasant young lady named Mel seated at a desk in an open area near my office and those of my co-workers. After a couple of days on the job, I asked Mel what she did. She answered: “I type copy you’re supposed to give to me and answer phones, including yours.” How odd I thought, since I type my own stuff and have always answered my own phone. Mel thought that odd too, but appreciated that I wasn’t adding to her workload.
Where was I going with this anyway? Oh yeh, working alone or in an office and why it’s better to work with a group of folks than being isolated by yourself in a remote corner of the house. It’s like drinking beer. You have a problem if you start drinking by yourself, and it’s always more fun to hoist a few with your pals at the local noisy tavern.
With that in mind, I’m getting thirsty and PJD’s in downtown Fernandina Beach is open, so I’m going there to collaborate with my buddies to have a few meetings at my remote office where I have my own chair with my name on it. IBM put my name on my office door but the suits there never put my name on my chair, and never served me a cold beer. I wonder if I could have added that to Mel’s job description.
Big Changes Coming Down On The Plantation: I’ve heard from folks that know, that the Amelia Island Plantation as it’s been known since 1973, will be undergoing some very significant changes and will put a whole new blush on the word “resort” and there’s a big brouhaha coming between the resort and its walled-in and gated wealthy residents.
Currently the Plantation consists of three major entities, each with a share of ownership and responsibilities as outlined in covenants and by-laws. They are:
Amelia Island Plantation Community Association: AIPCA, a 2,350 owners HOA.
Amelia Island Club: An equity club of approximately 1,400 members.
Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort.
The Omni Hotel chain has made an offer to buy out the existing Amelia Island Club which includes the Long Point Golf Course and Grill along with the Ocean V facility on the beach.
Omni, which has clearly established a strong financial balance sheet since its takeover in 2010, is aiming to put a capital “R” on the word resort with a new, beach-front 150-room boutique hotel where the Ocean V is and capturing another first class golf course to go with the original Pete Dye Oak Marsh course. At present Omni is upgrading the Oak Marsh course to the tune of more than two million bucks.
But the club isn’t in a selling mood and has firmly rejected the Omni offer as indicated in the following club president’s letter to its members.
Dear Fellow Members:
On Tuesday evening June 13th at dinner with Donald Stamets and Jon Hunter (corporate vice president from Omni HQ in Dallas) Omni delivered to Brian Tennyson and me on behalf of the Club Board an unsigned, non-binding term sheet to purchase certain assets of the Club. The Board views the terms as totally unacceptable. The proposal would leave the Club with the Ocean Clubhouse and more than $27 million of liabilities (the approximate maximum contingent resignation liability), while our Long Point golf Course and Clubhouse would become Omni owned and operated.
Terms aside, the Board flatly rejects any proposal wherein the Club would not remain an independent equity club with control over its operations. The Board believes an independent private equity club is the linchpin of the lifestyle our Members cherish.
The Board also unanimously voted not to consent to the closure of the Ocean Links Golf Course. This would be a clear violation of the Access and Use Agreement that requires Omni to operate two 18-hole golf courses, among other amenities all defined under Resort Amenities. There is no ambiguity about whether Omni can close Ocean Links without consent: they cannot do so without violating the Agreement. Notwithstanding the Board’s position, Donald Stamets will make the case for Omni to close the Ocean Links Course at the Open Meeting. His presentation will include Omni’s plan to convert the 75 acres into parkland and open space at Omni’s expense with respect to upfront cost and ongoing maintenance.
Your Board encourages Omni to drop its intentions to close Ocean Links Course and to purchase the Club or its assets. Instead, we urge Omni to work with the Club Board to find other ways to realize our separate business objectives. We remain optimistic that we and Omni can continue to enjoy what has been a mutually beneficial relationship ever since Omni purchased the Resort out of the Bankruptcy and especially so since Donald Stamets became the senior Omni official on The Plantation.
Following our open meeting on Tuesday, June 20th at 4:00 PM, Palmetto Room, where we encourage Members to respectfully express their views on both closure and sale, the Board, acting for the Membership, having full authority to do so will formally reject the Omni proposal to purchase Club assets. As for consent to close the Ocean Links Course, we will schedule a formal vote of the entire Membership as soon as possible.
While the overhang of the rumors of these unwelcomed overtures from Omni definitely impacts new members joining the Club (and real estate sales as well), you should also know that your Club is doing fine. This is evident in our operating numbers and in the dramatic increase in our Food and Beverage venues and in the attendance at special events and enrichment offerings. We are finally fortunate to have a great Management team in place, along with a wonderful group of associates. Our focus now is on bringing our physical assets up to this same standard of excellence.
Thank you. Cordially, Eric L. Blum President/Amelia Island Equity Club
This is going to get very interesting and I’m predicting that lawyers will be making lots of money. Stay tuned.
Things I Didn’t Know Until Now: A banker friend in Atlanta alerted me to the fact that If you were to spell out all the numbers you wouldn’t find the letter “a” until you got to one thousand.
BBQ Bonanza! Island BBQ is back and so is pit master Rodney Stubbs but despite the name, they’re no longer located behind the Hammerhead on South Fletcher. Instead you’ll find them in the old Pizza Hut location next to the Bait and Tackle shop in the Keystone Plaza near the intersection of 14th Street South and Sadler Road, across from the now shuttered Beef O’Brady’s.
Pit master Stubbs has risen from the ashes of his old pit like the legendary Phoenix and resurfaced at this new Island BBQ location that I predict will be one of the most popular in the county or within 200 miles of this area. If you like barbeque this is the place to be.
Owned by couples Mike and Kim Marsh and Albert and Kym Pye, the BBQ emporium, which opened its doors last Friday, June 9 is already doing a bang-up business through word-of-mouth and I’m betting this place will eventually have lines of folks waiting to get one of the 30 seats. Mike bought the BBQ business behind Hammerhead from Lowell Hall and ran it from 2010-2012 with Rodney manning the pit so these folks know BBQ.
If you understand and appreciate barbeque then you’re going to love this place. The menu includes the traditional pork and chicken but also boasts beef brisket. Ribs, smoked turkey breast and a burger are also available. They can be purchased by the pound, dinner with two sides or sandwiches with a side and a drink. The most expensive sandwich comes in at a more than reasonable $11.95 for beef and turkey with the priciest dinner at $14.95 (beef and ribs). The per pound prices are also very affordable. Wings are also on the menu. Sides include fries, corn nuggets, cole slaw, potato salad, okra, baked beans, mac & cheese and green beans.
Beer and wine is coming soon and there are four big screen TVs if you want to watch a game while you eat.
Island BBQ is open every day 11 a.m. to 9 p..m. and you can call in your order at 904/624-7811. If you order $20 worth or more, they’ll deliver if they have a driver the day you call.
The only thing missing at this BBQ joint is a waitress named Dixie and an iced cooler stuffed with bottles of orange and grape Nehi. But heck, give ’em time, they just opened and are still working out the kinks.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Halftime If you’re a beer drinker then pay attention as Halftime’s Sports Bar & Grill is offering 23 ounce personalized football-shaped glasses for $20 for the first beer and to buy the glass, then the regular price to refill it for life. That means you get seven ounces of “free” beer every time you refill it. Plus your name will be on the glass and it stays at the bar for your use each time you return. For example, Manager Lorenzo Church says if you drink Bud Light it would cost $3.00 to refill plus tax and instead of getting the normal 16 ounce pint, you’ll get 23 ounces, a heck of a good deal. Popular Amelia Island husband and wife duo The Macy’s (aka Kathy and Phil Maphey) are performing every Sunday at the Fletcher Avenue Surf starting at noon. Last night was piano man John Springer’s debut at the downtown 801 Kitchen & Bar and the place was packed with his regular fans and he didn’t disappoint. He’ll be there again tonight and tomorrow and every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from now on, 7-10 p.m. However, it’ll be a long time before I sit at the bar there and pay five bucks including tip for a Bud Light draught again. They have a drink menu that doesn’t include beer prices. What’s up with that? Cocktail prices are on it with specialty ones ranging from $7 to $13, so why not beer? Ernie Saltmarsh, the man behind the Florida House and its Leddy’s Porch, the Green Turtle, and the new 801 Kitchen and Bar has managed to snag Mitch Murray, manager at the Salty Pelican to run his soon to be opened Down Under, a resurrection of the original under Shave Bridge, sometime this summer. Hurricane Matthew didn’t do the renovated restaurant and bar any good and pushed the opening date further into the future, so it’s now scheduled for sometime in August from what I hear. Hupp Huppmann played and sang at PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden this past Thursday and it was good to see him back on the island after his brief hiatus to earn his business degree in Connecticut. Oh, if you are hungry, Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro is just next door as PJD’s Dave & Zan constantly remind their customers who ask where to eat.
Bill Shaffer’s comments were pretty accurate. As I recall, Bill and I encouraged Dave to pretend to wow the local media in person because that meant that the rest of us could get some work done.
Fascinating article. Glad to hear Down Under will finally be reopening. I have heard IBMs demand that telecommuters return to the office is part of a long-running effort to downsize the company, which has been struggling for years and lacks a coherent strategy for the future. Unfortunately, many employees will be hurt by the downsizing process.
I see my comment is “waiting moderation”. Will you elaborate on this status?
I have no idea Christine. Technology has passed me by. But I went into the technical bowels of the website and approved it. Maybe the tech gremlins held it up because they misinterpreted your comments assuming that you “don’t care about the impact on people’s lives” but I know better than that.
Person 1: “I guess I really don’t care about the impact upon people’ lives.” Juxtaposed with Person 2: “I can’t wait to try the beef brisket at the new island BBQ”.
If anyone reading Dave’s blog is interested in assisting in cleaning up the debris left by party goers on July 4th, please let me know. Last year, volunteers picked up trash – including firework remnants – before it was washed into the ocean. Before, it was swallowed by marine life – killing them slowly and painfully. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please leave your name, contact information, and beach you would like to clean. I will get back with you, and tell you where you can pick up grabbers and trash bags.
As one of Dave’s IBM bosses, I can report we all thought Scott was working out of the home.
The Home For The Very, Very Nervous.
When he did show up, it was to get my signature on expense accounts. The Atlanta press admired his choice of bars and seafood spots.
The press thought Scott was a righteous dude.
Sorry AutoCorrect changed what I typed. I meant to say “they don’t care about the effect on people’s lives “.
I understand the old IBM as my father worked for them. But my husband also works for them now. He works from home here on the island. They have picked a few locations that they assign people to. I would tell you with my husband being in management this has been an awful week and it is going to mess up a lot of peoples lives. It is different from the old world where most of the wives stayed at home. A lot of people have spouses that have careers where they live. But IBM IS achieving I think one of their goals. In one area they have 20% that are refusing to move and will leave the company. I guess I really don’t care about the impact upon people’s lives. I had to move my senior year to Owego New York from Huntsville Alabama when IBM pulled out of the space program.
Can’t wait to try that beef brisket at the new Island BBQ! One of my sister’s good friends has worked from home at IBM for the last 15 years or so. During this time, she had two babies who are now teenagers. This new corporate policy can’t be welcome news for her. Thanks for the updates! Great column as usual!
Very informative! Thanks!
Great informative blog. Thanks for all the relevant news and insight.
Dave, you really have great pictures, love them
Hillarious to see the world through your eyes . . . always!
Going to try the new BBQ today!!!
We in PR got selectrics since hand-writing or dictating news releases just wouldn’t work. I remember holding down those keys just because the sound was cool. My first and only cube was next to an accountant. Oil and water. I’m yucking it up with journalists or whoevever on the phone, while my colleague hovered over his calculator. I think working in an office environment is much better than telecommuting as long as there is some degree of privacy, and you’re not next to an engineer, hr person, lawyer or worst of all, an accountant!
Keeping me informed
Enjoy the blog
I enjoyed your blog this morning. I completely agree with the working at home part. I would never have been disciplined enough to work from home. It would have been Irish Coffee every morning. LOL
Will certainly miss Mitch at The Salty Pelican and wish him luck at the Down Under. Any mention to you of menu specialties at the newly renovated, soon to re-open restaurant/bar?
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