At Best Buy's corporate headquarters in Minneapolis, employees can work whenever and wherever they want, as long as they get their work done. Welcome to ROWE, or Results-Only Work Environment, an experiment that started within Best Buy's communications and properties divisions four years ago and now includes about 80 percent of the company's corporate employees. Best Buy plans to bring ROWE to its retail stores in light of numbers showing that productivity of ROWE teams has increased an average of 35 percent over the past two years and voluntary turnover rates in the company's dotcom, sourcing, and logistics divisions are down 90 percent, 75 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
Productivity is up at Best Buy because "people are not just putting in time--when they're working, they're working," says Jody Thompson, who implemented ROWE with co-worker Cali Ressler. They are now the principals of CultureRX, a Best Buy consulting subsidiary that's spreading the results-only gospel.
A results-only environment can work for a growing, teamwork-oriented company with processes that aren't highly complicated and clock-driven. However, it may not work for every job. "There are some jobs that are by nature time- and coverage-driven," says Marko Mrkonich, Minneapolis-based president and managing director of Littler Mendelson PC. Workers' compensation and compliance with federal wage and hour laws also present challenges.
Thompson recommends that interested entrepreneurs start a ROWE pilot program for at least half of their employees. "You need enough people to create the culture," Thompson says. Also, explain to other employees that it's being tested first.Best Buy is leading the way in what may become a widespread workstyle. "We're going to see a lot more flexibility," says Phyllis Moen, professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota. "I think [companies] will have to do it."