Federal Times last December brought you the inside story of how the once-ballyhooed Results-Only Work Environment program fizzled when it was tested at the Office of Personnel Management. In a sad postscript to that story, Best Buy — the home of ROWE, where it was first pioneered in 2005 — has just announced it is also canceling the ROWE program.
According to CNN:
Best Buy said some of the 4,000 non-store employees who took advantage of its work-from home program still may be able to telecommute or set flexible schedules. But as of Monday they’ll no longer have the freedom to make those decisions without a manager, as they had in the past.
[…] [L]ike Yahoo, Best Buy has since fallen on hard times, and the company recently brought in a new CEO. The big-box retailer has struggled to compete in a market increasingly dominated by online stores like Amazon, and ROWE didn’t fit into the company’s turnaround plans.
The twist that set ROWE apart from your run-of-the-mill telework program is that employees had complete autonomy to decide where and when they worked, as long as they got the job done. Want to skip town, go to the beach, and cram a day’s worth of work in from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.? That was possible under ROWE, assuming you could get everything done that was expected of you.
According to reports exclusively obtained by Federal Times, ROWE flopped at OPM because managers weren’t able to hold poor performers accountable, employees had no idea if they were succeeding because they weren’t getting enough feedback from their managers, and the quality of work slumped in some cases.
While ROWE is still in effect at other businesses and local governments, it’s a disappointing development for a management idea that once was touted to be the next big thing. OPM Director John Berry at one point hoped ROWE would transform the federal workplace, and after its initial success at Best Buy, was featured on the cover of Businessweek magazine.
UPDATE: Best Buy spokesman Jonathan Sadler provided this statement: “We of course believe in employee flexibility and are simply just looking for it to come in the context of a conversation between that employee and their manager. It used to be a right about which a manager had no say, now it’s that conversation.”