Twentysomething: Best Buy gets it. Stop watching the clock.

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By Ryan Healy — College taught me the true meaning of independence. I attended classes when I chose, I studied at my convenience, I partied at my leisure and I relaxed when I needed to relax. You would assume that since I am now an “adult,” I would at least have this same sense of independence in the corporate world. But working in this antiquated “count-the-hours” corporate structure, I am controlled and monitored more than I was by my parents in high school.

“I’m going to leave at 3:00 pm today, my wife is out of town and I need to pick my kid up at school or he will miss baseball practice.” This is just one example of the countless excuses to leave early that I have heard from my superiors.

Why do my managers and superiors feel a need to explain their need to leave early to me? I don’t care! Leave early if you have to. You have a life! I have a life! Work is just a part of life! I don’t need to know if your kid is sick or if you have a doctor’s appointment. We are all grown-ups here…I trust you.

I can’t blame my coworkers for this. I find myself coming up with ridiculous reasons for leaving a little early as well. We work in a corporate culture that believes more time equals more productivity and the people who work the most hours are the ones “going the extra mile.”

Best Buy has instituted a program called Results Oriented Work Environment (ROWE), to combat this antiquated, assembly-line way of thinking. Workers come in when they want, they leave when they want and they don’t make excuses. Major deliverables are known in advance and management trusts its employees to get the job done. This may be an elaborate PR stunt, but if Best Buy actually practices what they preach; they are embracing the blended life.

I am absolutely convinced that this is the future of work. How refreshing would it be to have no idea how many hours you worked because there is no distinction between work hours and life hours?

It’s a new way of thinking, and like my buddy Ryan Paugh said, “change” is a dirty word, but it’s necessary and it’s logical. My peers entering the workforce are not preprogrammed to make a giant distinction between work time and other time. Now is the opportunity to make this very simple change in thinking. It’s a win-win situation. Half of the American population will no longer hate their jobs, which will inevitably lead to increased production for the corporations. The only sector that could possibly lose out is pharmaceutical, when clinical depression reaches an all-time low. And that’s just fine by me.

I’m amazed that a program such as this can be considered revolutionary. To me, it just makes sense. Apparently some older workers equate not having strict business hours with working around the clock. This is completely understandable. If you have been controlled by the clock and overly concerned with hours for years, then it may be hard to differentiate productivity from hours worked. When I have had enough and am struggling to concentrate on my work, it seems pretty obvious to me that I need to shut it down and do other things. The work can be finished later.

Of course, it will not be easy to implement this new way of working for every type of job. Hourly workers actually need to record their time, doctors need to be around in case of an emergency, stock brokers must be available when the market is open and I’m sure there are other examples where this would not work too easily. However, a Results Oriented Work Environment for the average corporate Joe would be a beautiful thing.

Best Buy (or at least their PR department) is redefining the meaning of work-life balance. Simply put, they have created a blended life culture. The wheels have been set in motion; it’s only a matter of time before everyone hops on board.

Ryan Healy’s blog is Employee Evolution.

53 replies
  1. Andrew Flusche
    Andrew Flusche says:

    Hey Ryan,

    Call me a skeptic, but I’m just not sold on this ROWE idea.

    Huge law firms constantly claim during recruiting that “face time” doesn’t exist. You can come and go when you please. “Just get your work done.” Four weeks of vacation!

    But these same firms continue to increase the expected output of their employees. You might feel like you can come & go at will, but you really can’t because you have mountains of work to do.

    I think it’s kind-of an illusion that no formal working hours will make life better. It might at first, and it sure sounds good. But as companies continue to demand increased output and higher profits, there’s no automatic bounds to the work day. What’s keeping the boss from giving you so much work to do that you have to stay until 7, instead of hitting the road at 5?

    Just my two cents,



    These are very good points.  If this type of system is implemented the employee will be more responsible to discuss how much productivity is reasonable and what is not reasonable with his or her boss.  If management has free reign to demand unreasonable output, the system won’t work.  I actually think this system will be hard to implement at first because of the points you made, but eventually it will work.  Also, people going into careers such as law should know in advance that they will have to produce more than the average corporate guy.


  2. Alice Bachini-Smith
    Alice Bachini-Smith says:

    Fantastic post.

    Of course as employers and employees start treating each other more like reasonable human beings, there will be sub-issues to work out, including the usual resistance to change, and fear of exploitation on both “sides”.

    But the world is changing for the better anyway. Three cheers!

  3. Greg
    Greg says:

    A huge barrier to this is the Federal and State laws on the books. For example, everbody is entitled to a lunch break. If someone worked through lunch and knocked off an hour early the company would be liable for violation of DOL regulations.


    Hopefully the DOL will get with the times and change the outdated laws.  Although this is probably an unreasonable expectation.



  4. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    Echo the complements on the post. One issue that needs to be addressed is that of how crucial informal interaction — around the water cooler, so to speak — is to innovation and productivity of many firms. Those casual conversations between marketing and engineering can spark a great move forward.

    Then there is also the collaborative team work aspect of so many knowledge-based jobs. Some of the best ideas in my group come from someone casually stopping by my office to discuss something in the newspaper. In the conversation, suddenly the eureka idea or moment comes and we have a great new project.

    So, in implementing ROWE, companies will also need to address the need for face time, the need for casual interaction, and this tends to happen best when everyone is in the same place.

    I know some companies and teams have “core” hours when everyone must be there, and then leave it to staff to figure out the rest of their week.



    There is certainly something to be said for casual interaction and this so called “water cooler” talk.  However, there is no reason water cooler talk cannot take place through a company wide instant messenger.  In fact my best idea to date, starting my blog, took form in an IM conversation with my friend.  Obviously this type of system will need to be phased in, but it’s innate for young people.


  5. Laura
    Laura says:

    This isn’t just a PR story, Best Buy has fully embraced this strategy and it’s working. Workers are getting more done in less time when they are allowed to work their most productive hours. Generally speaking, Andrew, the managers haven’t simply upped everyone’s workload to force them to be in the office anyway – because they HAVE embraced the new policy. They have seen great results so far so now that they have the evidence that it has a positive effect on the bottom line, there’s no reason not to embrace it.

    Ryan, I think you have some great ideas but you really should watch some of your flippant sweeping generalizations that you make in nearly every post, such as “The only sector that could possibly lose out are the pharmaceutical companies when clinical depression reaches an all-time low. And that's just fine by me.” It’s offensive to suggest that true, clinical depression can be cured by different working hours. Working your best hours might solve a case of “the Mondays” but lifestyle generally doesn’t cure depression. If it did, why do rich celebrities suffer from it? Please, just think before you speak. That comment revealed a belief of yours that depression is a joke and that people who suffer from it can just “snap out of it.” I’ve spent too many years watching my brother suffer and fight against it to believe that.



    I apologize if I offended you or anyone else with my remarks about depression.  This was not my intention.


  6. Tyson
    Tyson says:


    Rich celebrities don’t suffer from clinical depression, they suffer from hugh egos and too much money to spend on cocaine.

    I’m sorry to hear about your brother, but you’re the one making sweeping generalizations if you thought Healy was being serious in any way.

    Lighten up and learn the scent of sarcasm.

  7. peter vajda
    peter vajda says:

    I think one element that supports the ROWE concept to work is trust. When we trust others, we’re not so apt to need to carry an “emotional and psychological controling” leash to keep tabs on folks and keep them in place. Mature self-management and self-responsibility are additional elements.

    Where the ROWE concept might not work is in environments or workplace cultures where folks are not self-responsible, cannot manage themselves (time, values, goals, tasks…) well and where managers are obsessed with power and control and thus, are anything but trusting.

    Not so different in relationships outside of work either.

  8. Pirate Jo
    Pirate Jo says:

    Peter Vajda, I couldn’t agree with you more. As I read this article, I smiled as I imagined the coronary my former micromanaging boss would have if he couldn’t watch the clock and keep tabs on people. You are right – it is all about trust. He didn’t trust anyone and wasn’t trustworthy himself. But then who wants to hire people like that anyway?

  9. Marissa
    Marissa says:

    Ryan, thanks for the post! CultureRx has partnered with Best Buy to bring a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) to 2,970 employees at Best Buy Corporate.

    Peter & Pirate Jo, right on about TRUST! When you start trusting and stop measuring productivity in face time, the whole game changes.

    Wendy, informal communication and relationship building are absolutely important aspects of work! This does not cease in a ROWE. Employees do often choose to come to the corporate campus to do some work. It’s rare for an employee to never come into work after migrating to a ROWE.

    Greg, keep in mind that ROWE is ONLY at the corporate level, not retail. The non-exempt employees at corporate that are subject to DOL laws do have to track their time to be compliant. However, they don’t get “scheduled”, instead they can CHOOSE when and where to get the work done.

    Again, thanks for the post!

  10. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    Sorry but I can’t agree with this. As long as you are an employee, it would NOT be “refreshing” to have no distinction between work time and personal time. It would be a nightmare.

    There is a reason that older workers associate a lack of strict business hours with working around the clock. It’s because they are speaking from experience.

    “I don’t care what hours you work as long as you get the job done” is nice in theory but in reality nine times out of ten, it’s code for “we are understaffed and you will be expected to do more than a full time job”.

    Have you seen The Devil Wears Prada? I rest my case.



    If you let your employer take advantage of you then you are exactly right, you will be overworked.  The key to succesfully implementing this type of an environment would be trust and communication like some other commenters said.  I wrote a previous post about wanting a “blended life” like this promotes.  Check it out, I still think it is possible.


  11. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    PS The qualifier is “as long as you are an employee”. I work for myself as a freelance writer. Clearly, for me there is no distinction between work time and personal time. And yes – I love it! But there is a HUGE difference. I am in control, not only of my hours, but also of what I feel is a good level of productivity. And if I decide to work harder, then I reap the benefits financially and in every other way. Completely different.

  12. Marissa
    Marissa says:

    Hi Caitlin,

    If you’re in a ROWE, it’s all about control and having choices. Just because you have the opportunity to blend your life doesn’t mean you have to! There are many, many employees at Best Buy living in a ROWE that prefer to keep work and personal stuff separate…and they do. The point is, ROWE looks different for everyone. If you want to come in to the office, Monday through Friday, 8 – 5, you can! If you prefer to travel in and out of work and person, then you can do that! It’s all up to you. Best Buy is setting clear expectations, empowering their employees, and the employees are turning out postiive results. It’s not at all about heaping on the work. It’s about working most effectively.

  13. tommy
    tommy says:

    I work for a large defense company in southern california – and from what I’ve been told, they have had this thing they call “flex time” for a number of years now (I’ve been here only a few years, and it’s my first real job out of college). But, it’s pretty much the only reason I’m still at the company, and has made going back to grad school while still working full time very manageable.

    The only problem is that they don’t go as far as to keep it at “get your work done”. As a government contractor, most of our contracts are based on billable man-hours. So, while we are allowed to flex our time and work whenever we want, we are still required to bill 80 hours every 2 weeks. It’s a step in the right direction, but still doesn’t do anything for productivity if you ask me. Most of us still worry more about “getting your hours in” rather than “getting the work finished in a productive fashion”.

    It’s such a huge shift in thinking and for some industries, a shift in the way contracts are written and customers are serviced. But I think the more this is publicized, and people start to see it being implemented successfully, the more confident companies will be to try it out.

    And lastly, what an incredible recruiting point! Is there really anyone, from any generation, who would look at a perk like this and say no thanks? I doubt it…

  14. anna
    anna says:

    I was surprised to hear a positive note about best Buy. Their pressure sells and aggressive sales force have turned me away. I wonder if that is due to ROWE, or if ROWE is a way they’re trying to change.

  15. Marissa
    Marissa says:

    Hi Anna. As of now ROWE has not penetrated Best Buy STORES…it’s only at corporate. Any references in the press about ROWE apply to only the corporate employee population.

  16. Tim
    Tim says:

    Hi Ryan,

    We will know we’ve turned the corner on this issue when professional services companies stop selling their people on daily or hourly rates, and simply sell them on an end result … i.e. line item descriptions in quotes for new work will change from 160 hrs @ $100/hr to “Development, testing and implementation of [xyz]”.

    Many customer organisations still have hang-ups about “I’m paying for your services, therefore I expect to see you here 8 hours a day, 5 days a week between now and the end of your engagement”.

    Some organisations are better than others. Interestingly, some business units within the same organisation are better than others!

  17. Laura
    Laura says:

    Tyson: I know he was being sarcastic and I thought it was insensitive. Sorry if that was just a reflection of me being overly sensitive, but that’s what happens when you make a flippant remark like that and someone affected by the comment reads it. And really? Celebrities are immune to illness? Sounds like you’re just bitter you don’t have more money. But anyway, I digress…

    Ryan: Thank you for the apology.

  18. Alan
    Alan says:

    I’m all for flex time, ROWE, whatever you call it, but I do not want work to intrude into my personal life. For those who are pushing for blending work and personal time, please stop. I like the idea of ROWE, but I don’t understand what that has anything to do with mixing it in with my personal life. Don’t waste your time and energy into getting corp. America to change. You change by creating your own business. I think the corporate culture is silly and has less to do with work and more about image.
    As far as being “overworked”, from my years of experience, most “overworked” people are phonies who are really disorganized, don’t know how to say “no”, and/or and crave for more work just so they can look like they are indispensable.

  19. Ed F.
    Ed F. says:

    I’m wondering how this might affect call centers? Could this even be implemented? Call centers rely on adequate staffing every minute that they are in operation to avoid back-logging of the incoming calls. Usually most call centers (especially those open 24 hours) are pretty flexible about what shift you can work…especially once you gain seniority and have been there awhile. In case you haven’t guessed already, I work for a call center and I would give ANYTHING NOT to be chained to a phone 8 hours a day… but I think this might fall under one of those industries where it would be nearly impossible. Thoughts?

  20. Marissa
    Marissa says:

    Hi Ed! Great questions! Here’s my take on the possibility of a ROWE in a Call Center environment. The result that needs to be achieved is that call center employees must fulfill customer calls and resolve issues. What if we let them figure out how to do that best? Maybe it’s not in the 3 or 4 shift schedules we have now. Perhaps the employees closest to the work have better ideas about how to appropriate cover the expected work load and call volume. ROWE isn’t just about working from home or working from Starbucks – it’s more about culture. Perhaps its the judgments and comments that coworkers make about each other, the work, management. By changing a small thing like the language used in an environment, the culture can shift for the better. When employees are given even just a little bit of control, it makes a difference in their attitude toward their jobs, their managers, and the work.

  21. Grae
    Grae says:

    Great post, Ryan.

    A bit of a P.S. on the ROWE concept. ROWE is now 5 years old at Best Buy corporate, and seems to be working well for them. The real kicker is that they’re going to start trying it out in Best Buy retail locations. Hmmm… letting Blue Shirts work when they want? It will be an interesting experiment, but I do have to wonder if any of them will ever show up.

  22. Marissa
    Marissa says:

    Best Buy and CultureRx have considered implementing ROWE in retail locations. ROWE isn’t all about letting people work when they want. For retail, it will be about empowering employees to make the best decisions for the company, their customers, their team, and themselves. ROWE focuses 100% on the RESULTS. Store employees are tasked with fulfilling their customers’ needs. 95% of the time, this will be done through interaction at the store location. To get the result, the employees may need to be physically present. No results? No job. I don’t think many employees would purposefully choose that option.

  23. Roger Anderson
    Roger Anderson says:

    This is very interesting. I had a form of this when I was running a dot-com in the late 90’s. With College and even High School programmers you have to have flex-time. They have exams, vacations when their friends are more available, and life’s ups and downs. By giving them, even making them take finals weeks off – they were not allowed to come in until all of their tests were done – I had a happier place to work in. As a small start-up we could not pay the full going rate. I asked the crew once why they did not leave – they all said that the flexibility was so valuable and that they could not find it anywhere else, they had no choice but to stay.

    I don’t know if it can work in a larger environment or in a place where demand cannot be spread out over time. I also think that the workplace laws are meant to protect people from abuses that could occur in such a system. Balance is key. A balance between what is needed and what is ideal. The balance is part of the selling equation when you want to get people to work with you.

  24. Finn
    Finn says:

    ROWE is one of those ideas that is very specific to certain types of businesses, and to the extent it involves any sort of flexibility in appearing at the job, it’s a matter of class.

    I work in a call center. Oh god how I work in a call center. It is micromanaged down to the minute, with automated reminders on our computers about when to take a break. All calls are now monitored. There are weekly group and personal meetings on how to “wow” the customer, where you are evaluated by technical quality and finesse.

    There is NO scheduling flexibility, and neither is their flexibility in the utterly stupid closing scripts that most customers rush to get off the phone to avoid hearing, as in “Have I taken care of your concerns to your complete satsifaction.” That little phrase, devised by some higher up likely at the behest of a consultant, does more damage than good, and serves mainly as a bad attempt at end of call brain washing.

    I think it should be made clear when we come to such workplace enhancement ideas, that there is a massive divide between lower and upper income workers, and what is feasible.

    And most of the “business” is actually done down at the lower end of the payscale, where it’s same old, same old, or one more burden atop another.

  25. Marissa
    Marissa says:

    Hi Finn, ROWE is unlike typical flexible work arrangements developed by managers and implemented for only certain levels or class of employees. ROWE is constantly being redefined and refined by the employees that live it. There is much talk about a ROWE for call centers. This possibility is very exciting! CultuerRx hopes to get away from the harsh discipline and lack of employee control. Instead instilling a sense of control, teamwork, and focus on the work that best serves the customer. ROWE does not divide lower and upper income workers. All levels of employees at Best Buy corporate office work in a ROWE, including non-exempt employees.

  26. Roger Anderson
    Roger Anderson says:

    In many companies the “higher ups” already have this kind of flexibility – it’s called non-exempt status. All of your hours belong to the company but you can usually take a longer lunch. In situations where people are operating in a team environment, like a call center, it is important to be certain that there are enough people handling the task to keep a certain level of service.

    I have a bit of a problem with this thread at this point. It seems like it started with Ryan, which was great but even if it seemed a bit biased for Best Buy. Now Marissa has turned it into a promotion for CultuerRx and is completely biased. I’m glad she identified herself, that is appropriate. Maybe I am too new to blogging to know what the proper etiquette is here but I thought repeated self-promotion was not encouraged. If I am wrong, please tell me.


  27. Carol Quovadis
    Carol Quovadis says:

    Hi Ryan,
    Great post and some interesting comments.
    There’s a Brazilian company Semco, that have taken the whole concept on non time management even further. This Brazilian company has grown from $35 revenues in 1994 million from to $212 million in 2003.

    Here are some direct quotes from the book on this success "The seven day weekend"

    "Semco has no official structure. It has no organisational chart. There's no business plan – .There are no vice presidents – .There are no standards or practices – . There's no human resources departments – no career plans – no job descriptions – no employee contracts – .supervision or monitoring of workers is rare indeed.."

    "We (Semco) give up control so workers can follow their interests and their instincts when choosing jobs or projects"

    Even on the factory production line workers decide what hours they work and when they’ll turn up,!

    The book is a great read and a real eye opener that there is a better way

  28. Christy
    Christy says:

    Hi Ryan. Great post! I think that more of a focus on work/life balance is the wave of the future, so Best Buy is ahead of its time. I just posted some of my thoughts on The Recruiter ( if you want to check it out!

  29. Peter
    Peter says:

    Great post and I loved the follow-ups. As a person associated with the "change-culture" in my company, I can tell you that a lot of the fear and concern people have mentioned in these posts comes from a lack of commitment on the part of management. We've all been micro-managed and forced to be clock watchers, but at least that is honest. I've had supervisors who've said, "I don't care when you work if you get the job done." Then I was made to feel uncomfortable about or forced to explain my early departure. However, I must own some of that because I felt like I was doing something sneaky or wrong, too.

    ROWE seems to be less about the flexibility (which some feel is code for more work in fewer hours – piling on – etc.) and more about empowerment. While flexibility is part of empowerment, it doesn't speak to the ownership that I feel for my company. If my work is being monitored and appreciated, I feel that I've achieved something. I also work when I'm most productive. I put the time in that I need to and relax when I'm done. I don't worry like I used to. But, I'm not in retail sales so I don't know how that pans-out. I can say that sales associates will most likely do a better job if they are empowered and feel that they have a stake in the company.

    I think ROWE is kind of like some fringe benefits (profit sharing, stock options, even good health benefits) – the cutting edge organizations and companies who wish to attract the talent will implement it and make it work for all personnel. Less successful entities, regardless of the sector, will be afraid to implement it because it means taking a look at results! Across the board, there will be embracers and neigh sayers!

  30. Harold
    Harold says:

    Hopefully this will enable people to get that much-needed exercise time in. Sadly, too many employers don’t provide a reasonable enough schedule to allow workers to get the healthful respite they need; sitting at a desk for 8 or 10 hours is terrible for the body.

  31. Dan
    Dan says:

    Really interesting post and I’d like to add to one of the points above and ask a question of my own.

    Re Call centers – British Telecom now employs the majority of its Directory Enquiry telephone operators as home workers. They are able to do this due to improved technology. All calls are incoming. This opens up the role to people who otherwise could not cope with a commute and standard 9-5 day (e.g. working mothers with pre-schoolers) Why can’t other call centers operate in the same way.

    The second point – question really – I am looking seriously at implementing a ROWE-style working environment but there’s a mental obstacle I can’t get over. Most of my company are sales people and most of the sales are telephone-based. The sales-people also need access to a confidential in-house client database to do their jobs. The results bit of it is clear – it’s a sales environment so everyone is targeted but…how do you implement ROWE when people need to be in the office to do their job and the hours are linked to when our clients are in their offices?

    Also…how do you mange non-performance against “results”. Everyone is skirting the issue so far.

    Any advice appreciated.

  32. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    I love the idea of ROWE. However to recommend Best Buy as a millennial friendly employer seems a bit premature. The main reason I say this is I’ve actually applied to Best Buy (Specifically the Geek Squad realm of the store). The application consists of a personality inventory that takes about 15 – 20 minutes. No chance to submit my resume, talk to a human, nothing. Just a personality test & a excessive amount of checkboxes asking me to swear I’m not a felon.

    The personality test is quite possibly the most irritating, inane ‘idea’ in modern HR. No one is themselves at work, you are your ‘work self’. So as long as I promise not to go postal on the Best Buy patrons what does it matter how I feel about plants?

  33. tts
    tts says:

    Such system would only work if there a fair way to measure productivity. If you are in sales or trading, you can measure your productivity with dollars you bring in, so ROWE system has always existed. Asking your top hedge fund trader to stare the screen just for face time when 80% of pay package is dependent on performance bonus will just make him quit. However, paper pushers are far away from the measurable value-add meritocracy, so their productivity is measured in terms of time. If you are part of the latter case, then ROWE will exploit you. What good is such system when you are constantly given 60+ hours of work? Trust me I’ve been there done that and it always benefits company owners and executives unless something is written in your employment contract.

  34. Rick
    Rick says:

    I’m a software developer and for as long as I can remember my best work happens from 10pm – 2am.

    The only problem with working like that is that going to bed at 2a and getting up at 6am is brutal plus, the idea that I need to sit my butt in a chair just because someone needs to see me there has always been off kilter in my world.

    I’m a typical night owl and work better at night so my jobs have always had a great person who can muddle through the day getting things done and then kick more butt at night but would I rather just get my work done when I want and do it with more efficiency? You bet!

    I love the ROWE movement and can’t wait for more companies to step aboard!

    I love the idea of ROWE so much that I created a job board for ROWE “rowejobopenings dot com” so ROWE companies please sign up your jobs and lets get this thing started.

  35. Brady
    Brady says:

    If you’re watching the clock at work, then you should think about going a different route professionally. Those that really love their jobs have their spouses calling and asking when they’re going to come home. Therein lies the dilemma for these potential workaholics. Delegating household tasks is one way to effectively buy time. Housekeeping or maid service is a useful tool.

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