After the Layoffs: Collecting 52,000 Laptop and Desktop Computers

The announcement this week that Citigroup will eliminate 52,000 jobs and with other large companies also looking at layoffs, IT departments are going to be forced to deal with hundreds and even thousands of desktops and notebooks that are no longer at use. While the task is daunting, there are several options out there for IT administrators, including recycling older PCs, repurposing desktops and notebooks for those employees who remain, and even donating the unused desktops and laptops.

When Citigroup announced Nov. 17 that it will eliminate another 52,000 jobs, the news marked the latest in a growing string of moves by companies big and small to pare jobs as a way of cutting expenses in hopes of surviving the financial crisis that has engulfed the economy.

A result of the massive numbers of layoffs is the technology those ex-workers will leave behind, forcing IT departments to deal with thousands of desktops and notebooks that are no longer being used. The question for IT is: What happens to all those PCs now?

While there is no one quick or easy solution to the question of what happens to PCs when layoffs happens, there are a number of options out there once desktops and notebooks have been inventoried and accounted for by IT managers. The possibilities of what to do with older PCs or ones no longer in use range from recycling older desktops and laptops to repurposing machines for new tasks and even charity donations.

Before looking at what to do with the PCs that are no longer needed, experts believe the first step is to make sure a company does not buy more desktops and notebooks than it needs when the economy remains unstable and layoffs loom.

"With hardware, if you purchased it, then you are just stuck with it and you have to find a way to dispose of it," said Alvin Park, an analyst with Gartner who examines asset management and IT procurement. "You could resell it or try to get the vendor to take it, or you could try to cancel orders that you have placed. However, all this has to be done on a contract-by-contract basis."

The Refresh Cycle

In Park's view, IT managers have to be aware of the company's PC refresh cycle if and when layoffs are announced. Park advises that IT managers who have leases from vendors for PCs look at the contract and see if there is a way to cancel or at least delay an order if those desktops or notebooks are no longer needed.

If an enterprise does eliminate a significant part of its work force, one of the most direct ways to deal with the leftover desktops and notebooks is to repurpose those machines either for other tasks or to assign those PCs to other employees who may have older equipment.

Robert Rosen, CIO for the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and an eWEEK Corporate Partner, said employees who have been let go are taken out of the active directory to ensure they can no longer access their PC. The desktops are then re-imaged and made available.

While the work for the IT department can be intensive, Rosen has tried to ensure that his department uses some automation to cut down on checking each desktop.

"The way we are set up, our desktop support people fire off a half dozen re-images and then go do something else," Rosen wrote in an e-mail. "So while there is a fair amount of labor, it is not too bad as they don't have to stand there while it is going on."