Is Best Buy right to end work-from-home program?

  • Article by: STAR TRIBUNE EDITORIAL BOARD
  • Updated: March 5, 2013 - 7:59 PM

It can be great for employees, but is it always right for employers?

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Photo: A Best Buy store.

Photo: file, Star Tribune

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On Monday, Best Buy announced an end to its innovative ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment) flexible-schedule program. Soon most corporate employees will work from headquarters in Richfield, just as Yahoo workers have been called back to the home office.

The irony in the timing of the Best Buy news likely wasn’t lost on many Minnesotans, stuck on snowy streets or working from home as their kids enjoyed a snow day Tuesday. Deepening the disconnect is the fact that both Best Buy and Yahoo create and sell products and services that advance the ability to work remotely.

But both companies are facing challenging business environments, and both have new leaders who believe that even in this technologically transformed new economy, traditional, all-hands-on-deck work structures are needed.

It’s up to every company to decide how to motivate employees, maximize efficiency and generate the revenue needed to run a successful business. That first piece — motivated workers — is critical.

Some Yahoo and Best Buy employees may welcome a return to a more structured workplace. Others may look for jobs with companies that put a greater emphasis on flexible schedules and telecommuting.

In the years ahead, the quality of the U.S. and state workforces built in the wake of the baby boom retirement tsunami will determine our global competitiveness.

The keen competition for top talent will only get tougher. On Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development reported that the state added 50,000 jobs last year, and that 90 percent of the 160,000 jobs lost in Minnesota during the Great Recession have been recovered. Additionally, corporate profits and Wall Street are at or near record highs.

As employers compete for top talent in the future, flexible scheduling is likely to remain a valued benefit. There are societal benefits, too. Having fewer commuters means less strain on gridlocked roads, which in turn has environmental benefits. And more family-friendly scheduling can help time-starved parents and their kids.

Under ROWE, Best Buy’s corporate employees largely worked where and when they wanted to — as long as they got their work done. Now most will work a 40-hour week at headquarters, although managers have some discretion on scheduling.

Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly said last fall that he wanted to return accountability to the corporate culture.

Joly is following through on that pledge, and at least some of Best Buy’s 168,000 workers worldwide are feeling the impact. For their sake — and for the customers and shareholders of Best Buy — we hope the strategy is successful.

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An editorial of the Star Tribune (Minneapolis). Follow the editorial board on Twitter @StribOpinion and on Facebook.

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