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Best Buy ends work-from-home program [UPDATE]

Gchat doesn't cut it for CEO Hubert Joly -- he wants his employees back in the office.
Gchat doesn't cut it for CEO Hubert Joly -- he wants his employees back in the office.

-- Update at bottom --

As it seeks to rebound from a disastrous 2012, Best Buy's leadership has decided to end a program that allowed corporate employees to work from home and maintain flexible schedules.

SEE ALSO: Best Buy: On the road to extinction?

Though some workers will still be allowed to maintain inconsistent schedules and work away from the company's Richfield headquarters, most will now be expected to put in traditional 40-hour in-the-office work weeks.

The Star Tribune details the discontinued program, which was known as Results Only Work Environment (ROWE):

[Under ROWE], the company evaluated employees solely on performance versus time worked and office attendance. Employees worked when they wanted and wherever they wanted just as long as they got the job done...

ROWE, which the company launched in 2005, did not apply to Best Buy's store employees, who make up the lion's share of the retailer's 168,000-person global workforce...

"It makes sense to consider not just what the results are but how the work gets done," said Best Buy spokesman Matt Furman. "Bottom line, it's 'all hands on deck' at Best Buy and that means having employees in the office as much as possible to collaborate and connect on ways to improve our business."...

After an investor presentation last November, Joly told the Star Tribune that he intended to restore accountability to the company's culture.

"You need to feel disposable as opposed to indispensable," Joly said [see update below for more on this quote].

ROWE was developed by former Best Buy employees Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson. The two of them later went on to co-found Minneapolis-based HR consulting firm CultureRx.

In a blog post, Ressler and Thompson blast Best Buy's decision to follow Yahoo's lead and "stumble backwards" by no longer allowing employees to work from home. From their blog:

Best Buy Co, Inc. has gone backwards in time, following the footsteps of Yahoo! and demanding all hands on deck. We're certain that other organizations are going to stumble backwards as well over the next few weeks. When we heard the news, we weren't surprised; as new management came on board over the past few years - management that obviously favors managing schedules over managing performance - the stronghold of outdated thinking became the weed that choked the evolution of the most enviable, productive, attractive and globally-forward workforce of the future.

So we think it's unfortunate, if not downright silly, that Best Buy has made the decision to discontinue operating as a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) for corporate employees. They are sending a clear message that they are more concerned with having leadership excel at monitoring the hallways, rather than building a leadership team that excels at defining clear, measurable results, and holding people accountable for achieving those results. While we agree that Best Buy must take drastic measures to turn their business around, moving back to a 20th century, paternalistic 'command and control' environment is most certainly not the answer. It's our hope that the Best Buy leadership team quickly recognizes that the managed-flexibility game is old news, and that organizations who will win in the 21st century will learn how to effectively manage the work, not the people. In fact, any so-called leadership team can effectively get 'all hands on deck', dictate hours and delegate tasks, while their people brag about how many hours they put in 'at the office'. That's easy. But only true leadership has the ability to get 'everyone on point' with a workforce vs. a workplace that's fluid, nimble and focused on what matters: measurable results.

The end of ROWE comes just days after the company announced it's laying off 400 corporate employees , meaning it's been a tough couple weeks for Best Buy workers down in Richfield.

:::: UPDATE ::::

In an email, Best Buy spokesman Jeff Shelman says the "You need to feel disposable" quote from Joly included in the Star Tribune's report and reprinted above is out of context. From his email:

The Star Tribune story did not use the entire quote and one key word was wrong.

The quote is:

"In a turnaround transformation, direction needs to come from the top. I make sure to get to a conclusion based on fact. You need to feel dispensable as opposed to indispensable."

The context is that he is talking about himself. He is not talking about our employees.


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