Best Buy Kills Freewheeling Work-From-Home Program
Now, you'll need a manager's permission to telecommute
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Mar 6, 2013 6:23 AM CST
In this Thursday Nov 22, 2012 file photo, people wait in line for a Best Buy store to open in Northeast Philadelphia.   (AP Photo/Joseph Kaczmarek, File)

(Newser) – First Yahoo sparked a backlash by telling workers they had to come into the office; now Best Buy—which has had one of the most progressive telecommuting policies going—is doing much the same thing. Ever since 2005, Best Buy has had a "Results Only Work Environment," meaning non-store employees could work wherever and whenever they wanted, as long as they produced results. On Monday the company ended the policy, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports; workers now have traditional 40-hour weeks, with telecommuting subject to managerial approval.

"When you're in a turnaround situation, it truly is all hands on deck," a Best Buy spokesman told CNET. But the two former Best Buy HR employees who invented ROWE called the decision "downright silly" in a blog post spotted by Business Insider. "They are sending a clear message that they are more concerned with having leadership excel at monitoring the hallways" rather than getting results. Meanwhile, the New York Times today digs inside the Yahoo move, echoing past reports that some telecommuters were barely working, or even taking side jobs. "Morale was terrible," an ex-manager says, "because the company was thought to be dying."

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Mar 7, 2013 10:38 PM CST
It's interesting how the CEOs responsible for these decisions cite the need to facilitate innovation and collaboration by demanding physical presence in the office. This is probably more true of their own jobs than of anyone else, because when you think about it--what does an executive do all day? They meet with each other and with their direct reports, they travel, they telephone. Meetings and face time are the very currency of their daily job activities, and the more meetings and face time they can make, the more productive they are likely to be. I think you could say this of most senior managers, too. In a huge corporation the Director of Software Development does not sit at a desk all day writing code. For many lower level staffers, however, meetings are a necessary evil. While teamwork is very important, of course, we still need to recognize that the average worker's job in a large corporation is task oriented. A project team may need to meet every few days but each team member usually needs to spend some time alone to complete his/her part of the project. What collaboration does need to occur, e.g. testing the interaction of two software components built by different people can usually happen remotely. From the worker's perspective meetings to notify, discuss, and explain what they need to know about the project make sense; overly frequent status meetings do not. With regard to companies in turnaround, that doesn't change anything. The makers of strategic decisions in such times need the work products of their subordinates more than ever--but that doesn't mean their physical presence. Not every job description should entail the kind of constant face time that are the hallmark of senior management. Suppose Best Buy and Yahoo! were doing really well--would you assert that everyone needs to be on deck to decide what to do with a cash surplus? Of course not, and it's the same at the other end.
Mar 6, 2013 7:35 PM CST
With the news of telecommuting going down the shitter, Home Shopping Network stock took a huge dive.
Mar 6, 2013 7:13 PM CST
This will either make or break them.