Rescinding R.O.W.E. Smart Business Strategy or Workaholic Syndrome?

April 29, 2013 by Careerminds

It’s official! U.S. workers are taking it too far. We take fewer vacations, work longer hours, accept pitiful maternity leave policies and are over all, overworked.

In response to this tiring work ethic, mixed with the intrinsically autonomous millenials entering the workforce, work-from-home and telecommuting models of business have emerged. Most teleworkers don’t work remotely full-time, currently the norm is 1-2 business days per week out of the office.

Employees love the flexibility and freedom of telecommuting, and business enjoy the increased productivity that reportedly takes place. Telecommuting increases relatxation and decreases the need for sick days. There are quite a few benefits telecommuting, but problem is that few companies have really prepared their business and work models to smoothly mesh with it.

Much to the chagrin of her employees, Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo, has put a ban on telecommuting. Yahoo has long been known for their employer brand and perks, telecommuting being one of them. A rumored memo was sent out giving employees the choice between working from home, or not working at all. Do we have a workaholic on a rant on our hands, or perhaps is this a case of a few spoiling it for the rest? The answer is yes. Meyer is a reported workaholic, but there were in fact many employees taking advantage of the lack of supervision that telecommuting can lend.

Best Buy, another company on the downturn, has followed suit by downsizing their telecommuting program. Best Buy implemented their Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) program in ’05 and it was quite successful. So successful in fact, that Best Buy created a subsidary called CultureRx to export the concept to other companies. But like Meyer, Best Buy CEO, Hubert Joly saw flaws in this model from the leadership perspective. Currently, Best Buy takes the stance that not all employees are banned from telecommuting, but rather it is a decision that the individual employee and manager will make together.

With all of the obvious benefits of telecommuting, why did these two companies decide to end or minimize their telecommuting programs? Both seem to have a “Report for duty” attitude in facing the decline of their respective companies head on.

The memo from Yahoo said, “In order to become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

Shelman, a Best Buy exec said, “We believe in employee flexibility but it needs to come in the context of a conversation, a conversation that is about what the results are and how the work gets done.”

Obviously, the decision to ban telecommuting has not been well received. This means less time with families, more time commuting, less relaxation and freedom, and above all, who wants to wear pants all the time? Increased productivity and lowered cost to the company doesn’t necessarily translate for every company and every employee. Finding the balance is never easy, but it sounds like Best Buy might be on to something. Creating a conversation and policies that clearly define the expectations of the teleworker might be the steps we need in getting closer to a work-life balance.




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