Best Buy’s Banish on Telecommuting: Much Ado about Nothing

Filed under Industry News

Given recent corporate buzz about telecommuting, a modern-day Macbeth would likely ponder, “To telecommute, or not to telecommute? That is the question.

best-buy On day two of National Telework Week, Best Buy announced the termination of its once groundbreaking telework program, Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE).

Although Best Buy claims this ironic development has actually been months in the making, it’s impossible to ignore the timing of this decision. Coming at the heels of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s ban on telecommuting two weeks ago, work-from-home advocates are now circling the wagons around the big-box retailer and fervently defending the telecommute lifestyle.

I have been living the work-from-home dream for seven years while managing multiple geographically distributed teams and I firmly believe everyone should be able to work in their pajamas; however, I’m not quite ready to throw Best Buy into the same misguided camp as Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer.

Unlike Mayer, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly isn’t making a unilateral decision about abolishing flexible work arrangements. The organization will allow some of its 4,000 non-store employees to continue working a flexible schedule. There’s just one small catch: telework options can only be implemented after managerial approval.

And that’s where many telecommuting advocates raise a skeptical eyebrow.

Despite the fact that telecommuting is touted for its contribution to increased productivity, it’s no stranger to management resistance. Most inexperienced managers simply cannot buy into the idea of their staffers not being in the office every day. This isn’t uncommon. In our two-year benchmark review of the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act, we noted that twenty-six percent of federal workers said they have the desire, skill set, and type of job that lends itself to telecommuting, but their managers simply won’t approve a telework arrangement.

Thankfully, all is not lost. If Best Buy managers look to the Federal Government (of all places!) for guidance, they will see it is possible to effectively manage a remote staff. According to the 2012 Status of Telework in the Federal Government report, more than 144,000 federal employees have a telework arrangement in place as approved by their manager.

In fact, federal agency managers are an essential component to the six-point telework program implementation plan supported at the federal level. As a road-map, federal telework requirements include:

1. Outlining a clear telework eligibility policy

2. Assigning a Telework Managing Officer

3. Establishing a system that notifies eligible telework employees of their ability to work from home and setting up flexible scheduling options

4. Formulating a written telework agreement between eligible telework employees and agency managers

5. Instituting a pre-telework training program for managers and employees

6. Making telecommuting a vital part of a Continuity of Operations Plan

to telecommute or not to telecommute If Best Buy can overcome potential management resistance and continue allowing staffers who excel in telecommuting environments to deliver results remotely, their ROWE repeal will barely register as nothing more than a small blip on the telecommute discussion radar.

Best Buy’s decision to revamp their stance on working remotely isn’t a kibosh on telecommuting. In the digital age of the 21st century, we’re confident the practice of working from home will not end like a Shakespearean tragedy.

What are your thoughts on Best Buy’s decision to scale back on telecommuting?

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