Best Buy Ditches Work Time and Place Constraints

December 11, 2006 ( - Best Buy Co. is enacting an official policy that says people are free to work wherever and whenever they want, as long as they get their work done, BusinessWeek reports.

By the end of 2007, all 4,000 employees working at Best Buy corporate will be part of a “results-only work environment” (ROWE), according to the news report. The new work environment will become an official part of Best Buy’s recruiting pitch and orientation for new hires, starting in February, and the company plans to rollout its new policy to its stores – a first in the retail environment.

The goal of ROWE is to judge performance on output instead of hours, so under the new environment, it would be acceptable “to take conference calls while you hunt, collaborate from your lakeside cabin, or log on after dinner so you can spend the afternoon with your kid,” the BusinessWeek report said. There are no mandatory meetings or mandated work hours under the new policy. The company hopes ROWE will relieve stress, burnout, and high turnover by freeing employees to make their own work-life decisions, thereby boosting morale and productivity.

So far, since the program’s implementation, average voluntary turnover has fallen drastically, according to CultureRx, a subsidiary set up by CEO Brad Anderson and his team to help other companies go clockless. In addition, Best Buy says productivity is up an average 35% in departments that have switched to ROWE, and the Gallup Organization has found that employee engagement at the company, which measures employee satisfaction and is often a barometer for retention, is way up too.

The initiative was started as a covert operation by HR employees Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler, who introduced the experiment to two division managers who were desperate. Complaints from top performers were threatening business continuity just as Best Buy was rolling out its customer centricity campaign. Anderson learned of the initiative two years after it began, and accepted it.

The company also believes ROWE will aid in the cost for its customer centricity campaign. Best Buy figures the policy will reduce the need for corporate office space, it can rent out the empty cubicles to other companies, and use the millions of dollars in savings for its services initiative.