Best Buy to Limit Telecommuting

March 12, 2013
By: Tracey E. Schelmetic

When Yahoo’s CEO Melissa Mayer announced the end of the company’s telecommuting program, she generated a lot of headlines and even more vituperative discussion boards. Mayer was accused of being everything from incompetent to tyrannical to sexist.

Now, apparently, it’s Best Buy’s (News - Alert) turn. Perhaps inspired by Mayer’s move, the big box retailer announced that it is altering its existing flexible work opportunity for its 4,000 non retail store employees, called “Results Only Work Program”. Moving forward, employees must coordinate with managers before creating their own flex-work schedules, Fox Business is reporting today. The mandates apparently come directly from Best Buy’s new CEO Hubert Joly.

It’s probably not a coincidence that Best Buy, similar to Yahoo, is struggling and both Mayer and Joly were hired to turn the companies around. But will it turn into a trend? If it does, it will reverse a major telecommuting push in the U.S. According to the Mercer 2012 Compensation Policies and Practices Survey, about two thirds of U.S. companies report that they offer some type of telecommuting flexibility to employees. 

Telecommuters certainly love it, that’s for certain. A study done in 2011 by Staples (News - Alert) Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, found that employees who are allowed to work from home love it so much they'd rather give up their favorite TV show (54 percent), an extra hour of sleep (48 percent), a favorite food (40 percent) or even part of their salary (40 percent) than give up telecommuting, Huffington Post reported.

This may be why Mayer has attracted so much criticism, and Joly can expect it.

But while employees who work from home are full of indignation, the media is full of debates about telecommuting. Is it an effective, work-producing model or an opportunity for employees to catch up on “True Blood” episodes and update their Facebook (News - Alert) pages in the middle of the afternoon?

Some studies have found that telecommuting does make employees more productive. A Stanford University study conducted last year examined a Chinese travel agency with over 12,000 employees and found that working remotely does increase performance. Others studies have backed this research up.

So what are Yahoo and Best Buy thinking? It’s about innovation for ailing companies that need new ideas, says the New York Times.

“The idea behind the Yahoo announcement, as well as a more limited announcement from Best Buy this week that will add restrictions to its telecommuting policy, was that bringing workers back to the office would lead to greater collaboration and innovation,” wrote the Times.

Whether it’s going to work will remain to be seen.

In the meantime, should telecommuters fear for their jobs-in-jammies? No, according to at least one survey. A recent poll of 120 human resources executives conducted by headhunting firm Challengers, Gray & Christmas found that 97 percent of respondents said they had no plans to eliminate telecommuting, the LA Times is reporting.




Edited by Brooke Neuman