Best Buy cancels telework program

No more working anywhere, anytime, for Best Buy's corporate employees

First Yahoo, now Best Buy. In the midst of a corporate restructuring, the electronics retailer has canceled its flexible work program and expects corporate employees to put in traditional 40-hour work weeks at its headquarters in Richfield, Minn.

Best Buy, in the midst of a corporate restructuring, has canceled its flexible work program and expects corporate employees to put in traditional 40-hour work weeks at the retailer's headquarters in Richfield, Minn.

The decision comes on the heels of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's decision to end telecommuting, which ignited a firestorm of criticism. It also follows news of Best Buy's plans to lay off 400 corporate workers as part of a plan to cut $725 million in costs and restructure its business.

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Best Buy was an earlier pioneer of a program known as ROWE, or Results-Only Work Environment. The ROWE management strategy is designed to evaluate employees based on their performance, not their hours logged or on-site attendance. At Best Buy, ROWE enabled corporate employees (not store employees) to control when they worked and where they worked.

"We're a company that still believes strongly in employee flexibility, but the ROWE program itself has been canceled," says Matt Furman, Best Buy's chief communications officer and senior vice president of public affairs.

"In any circumstance, it matters not just what you do but how you do it. Particularly in a turnaround, what matters is the ability of employees to collaborate and work together on solving the problems the company faces," Furman says.

There are no plans to reinstate ROWE in the future, though managers will have some discretion to enable flexibility. "On an individual basis, an employee and a manager will have the opportunity to work out an arrangement that's in everyone's interests," Furman says. "But for the most part, the goal is to have employees in [the office] whenever possible."

The creators of ROWE, workplace consultants Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, began their work together at Best Buy. Last week they posted an open letter to Marissa Mayer following her ban on telework. The letter slams the Yahoo CEO for what they see as a major blunder. The letter reads in part:

"Your decision to ban working from home is uninformed, outdated, and most importantly, not focused on the results we all hoped Yahoo! had front of mind. Marissa, as the CEO of a tech company, you better than anyone knows that communication and collaboration can (and does) happen between and among people anywhere at any time. That's what technology has done - it's made that possible. Your memo to Yahoo! employees stating that they need to be physically side-by-side to communicate and collaborate frankly blew our minds. Only [the] most out-of-touch, old school CEOs would actually say that out loud in 2013."

On the ROWE website, ROWE is described in this way:

"In a Results-Only company or department, employees can do whatever they want whenever they want, as long as the work gets done. No more pointless meetings, racing to get in at 9:00 am, or begging for permission to watch your kid play soccer. No more cramming errands into the weekend, or waiting until retirement to take up your hobbies again. You make the decisions about what you do and where you do it, every minute of every day."

The benefits of ROWE, its founders say, include better morale, higher employee engagement, improved retention, and increased productivity and efficiency.

Ann Bednarz covers IT careers, outsourcing and Internet culture for Network World. Follow Ann on Twitter at @annbednarz and reach her via email at abednarz@nww.com.

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