Best Buy’s Farewell to ROWE

We often joke about how many companies have to actually do something before we can safely call it a trend. Three? Five? Ten?

In the realm of telework practices, we now have at least two companies that have announced a change in course in the past couple of weeks.

Best_Buy_20070222On the heels of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision a couple of weeks ago to nix telework, Best Buy announced earlier this week that it had cancelled its much-publicized Results Only Work Environment program. As most of you already know, the big-box retailer essentially gave birth to the approach in 2005. (HRE last revisited the ROWE concept in detail in 2010, with a story titled “Anytime, Anywhere.”)

Apparently, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly wasn’t a huge fan of the policy. In February, the Star Tribune quoted him as saying that the ROWE policy was “ ‘fundamentally flawed from a leadership standpoint’ in that it effectively assumed the only acceptable way to lead is by delegating.”

Erin Kelly, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied the effectiveness of ROWE, told that same paper more recently that companies are unfairly scapegoating flexible-work programs for their subpar performances. “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.”

(No secret both Yahoo! and Best Buy have had their share of troubles lately.)

So should we expect another shoe to drop on telework in the coming weeks? Your guess is as good as mine. But even were that not to happen, I suspect the debate over the pros and cons of telework is going to continue to have some legs.

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