Best Buy has ended its Result Only Work Environment (ROWE) program, which famously allowed employees to telecommute, working in the office on a set schedule, or have the flexibility to do both. Evaluations were based solely on job performance, with no consideration of attendance. Best Buy’s policy change follows a similar change at Yahoo, where CEO Marissa Meyer no longer allows staff to work from home.
Executives at both companies cite a need to improve competitiveness, and they argue that requiring employees to come to the office will enhance collaboration and innovation. Erin Kelly, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota, is skeptical. She argues that ROWE is not to blame for the companies’ struggles:
“I’m concerned that these flexibility initiatives and telework initiatives are getting blamed for what may be other problems those organizations are facing in the broader market,” Kelly told the Star Tribune.
Jennifer Glass, a sociologist at the University of Texas, similarly disputes research claims that required attendance improves innovation among employees.
In an op-ed for the New York Times, Glass writes:
[M]uch of this “research” simply shows that workers who collaborate with others in loose networks generate better ideas. It doesn’t suggest that the best way to create new products and services is by isolating your employees in the silo of a single location.
Best Buy and Yahoo are calling for all hands on deck, but do all hands need to be on deck at the same time?