Best Buy’s recent news to eliminate telecommuting and its ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) program has met with hue and cry by many in the Twin Cities. Not me. Take a look at this blog post from 2010 where I called it one of the worst ideas of the year. Here’s an excerpt:
Do you remember trying to work in a campus environment when you went to college? Let me remind you: you had to leave your room and desk because your neighbors got out of class at noon and scored Pink Floyd’s The Wall along with some excellent Maui Wowie. Your roommate could only study with Wheel of Fortune on and there was a squirt gun war between your dorm and the one across the quad every day at 3:00. Remember? That’s why you moved off campus as soon as your residence hall contract would allow. So why do you think it would be any different 30 years later?
[Best Buy has] a campus environment with universal wi-fi where employees are encouraged to work from anywhere at anytime. Turns out, however, that people only come into the office for two reasons: meetings in conference rooms or socializing. See, if they actually need to get work done, they work from home or Starbucks… The headquarters has become the least productive real estate in the company with people coming and going at will and no boundaries for respect for people actually working at their desks.
Or as I like to say: all the headaches of a college campus with none of the booze.
CEO Joly’s decision to eliminate ROWE is perhaps the best sign yet that Best Buy may actually be able to engineer yet another resurrection. Not because adults cannot be trusted to be productive from home, but because a turnaround company’s most valuable currency is CLEAR COMMUNICATION & FOCUS. To seize employee focus and keep it, Best Buy’s management team needs direct, timely, consistent communication with every associate everyday. That’s not a dig against anyone’s management skill. It’s a truth I lived at Musicland. Best Buy’s corporate team needs to stay up to date with priorities and plans each hour. There should be a healthy level of discomfort for any distraction. Say what you will, ROWE was nothing if not a stimulus for distractions.