Best Buy's 'Results Only Work Environment': Changing the Productivity Paradigm?

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Case Details:

Case Code : HROB092
Case Length : 12 Pages
Period : 2003-2006
Pub Date : 2007
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : Best Buy Co. Inc.
Industry : Electronics Retail
Countries : The US

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ROWE was an idea born and nurtured by a handful of passionate employees. It wasn't created as the result of some edict.

- Brad Anderson, CEO and Vice Chairman of Best Buy, in 2006.1

"Our whole notion of paid work was developed within an assembly line culture. Showing up was work. Best Buy is recognizing that sitting in a chair is no longer working."

- Phyllis Moen, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota, in 2006.2

"You can ridicule an obsession with face time, for example, but some companies have a strong belief that having people at the same place, in the same time, creates synergy that is valuable to the company. You're going to have a hard time changing that."

- Paul Rupert, a flexibility consultant at Washington DC-based Rupert & Co., in 2006.3

A New Kind of Workplace

In 2005-2006, Best Buy Co., Inc. (Best Buy), one of the leading retailers of consumer electronic products in the US, was in the news for implementing an innovative workplace program called 'Results Only Work Environment' or ROWE, for its corporate employees.4 ROWE, as the name indicated, focused only on 'results' as a measure of employee productivity. Under ROWE, employees were allowed to work when they wanted, where they wanted, just as long as they achieved their targets. Hours were not measured and putting in an appearance at the office was not necessary. As of late 2006, the program was still finding its feet, but it was already widely discussed and analyzed.

In some corporate circles, ROWE was hailed as a path-breaking program, which would give new meaning to flexibility and work/life balance. Skeptics however, were concerned about the chaos that could be created if thousands of employees in every organization worked without authorized boundaries.

ROWE differed from traditional 'flexible work schedules' in that, under flexibility, employees were still expected to put in an appearance at the workplace. Either the start and finish times were flexible, or employees worked for a certain number of days in the week at home and the rest at office. Under ROWE however, coming in to office was entirely voluntary. Even physical attendance at meetings was not compulsory. In the early 2000s, workplace stress had become a matter of concern in the US as well as other developed economies in the world. In the US, the number of hours in the work-week had reportedly increased from the earlier-typical 40 hours, to more than 60 hours (stretching to even 80 hours in some industries).

Best Buy's 'Results Only Work Environment': Changing the Productivity Paradigm? - Next Page>>

1] George Anderson, "Best Buy Realigns Work Environment for Results,", December 7, 2006.

2] Michelle Conlin, "Smashing the Clock," BusinessWeek, December 11, 2006.

3] Patrick J. Kiger "ROWE's Adaptability Questioned," Workforce Management (accessed on December 26, 2006.)

4] It did not apply to retail employees as of early 2007.


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