How Best Buy Realized That Productivity Doesn't Necessarily Mean Being In The Office At 8am

from the they-just-got-this? dept

For many years, we’ve been surprised when companies freak out about things like personal web surfing at work or how companies used new technologies to simply take over larger amounts of an employee’s non-work time, rather than better balancing their work-life balance. The key in all of this is that if people are productive and getting their work done, does it really matter if they’re surfing the web occasionally at work? Among many tech companies (especially young ones), this seems like the natural state of being, and many have no problems with more flexible work programs. However, for more traditional companies, the idea is apparently still foreign. Business Week has a cover story this week about how Best Buy has completely changed their corporate environment, embracing an exceptionally chaotic plan to let people do whatever they want whenever they want. This means if people only want to work nights, they can. If they want to leave in the middle of the day to watch a movie, that’s great. If they want to work from home or a coffee shop or a fishing boat, that’s perfectly fine. No meetings are mandatory. All that matters is whether or not people get their jobs done. Living in Silicon Valley, this doesn’t sound too out of the ordinary, but it seems more fitting for companies that grow up that way, and before “experienced” managers come in and put more processes in place. However, Best Buy figured out a way to not just implement it widely, but they did it from the bottom up, not even letting the CEO in on the fact that much of the company had embraced the idea until about two years after it began.

It will be interesting to see how well this goes over long term. While the article quotes lots of people talking about the productivity gains that came from the switch, it’s not always easy to tell if it’s because of this change, or just because there was a change. In other words, just the fact that the usual grind changed, could bump up productivity — but if the new method becomes “the grind,” changing back could be just as effective. However, part of what this really highlights is that companies often judge productivity by the wrong measures — such as hours at a desk. If you want a system like this to really focus on productivity, there needs to be a clear (and correct) understanding of what productivity actually means for the workers at that company.

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Comments on “How Best Buy Realized That Productivity Doesn't Necessarily Mean Being In The Office At 8am”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Candy coated puff piece

This article is pure stuff and nonsense. Best Buy has a toxic culture where they don’t hesitate to outsource entire divisions of the company (e.g., finance, HR, real estate, accounting, IT) with no regard to what it does to productivity or people.

That hidebound Beast can’t stop tripping over its own feet. Its only success comes from volume: they buy such piles of stuff from their vendors that they get huge discounts. Its nothing but volume and momentum, but the foundations are rotten to the core.

Fast flowing money covers a lot of ills. Once the growth falters, Best Buy will implode.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Candy coated puff piece

I take it you have to be at work at 8 a.m.?

Get over how smart you think you are. BestBuy isnt going anywhere. Society is completely consumer driven and BestBuy is my favorite place to go blow all the extra cash I have from being self employed and extremely productive due to a less stressfull work environment.

Jeff says:

Ok, I have to say it. Doesn’t structure have value, for eveyone?

You can’t get the same interaction time with fellow employees if you don’t have the same schedules, or you aren’t there. Cell phones are great, but they can’t replace face to face conversation.

And if you are trying to impress your boss, or just trying to exceed expectiations, this loose scheduling might be just the thing make you sacrifice too much to accomplish your goals. That may be fine if only one guy out of twenty does it, give them what they want. But if everyone wants to move ahead (and who doesn’t) then you’ve got a race scenario that involves everyone working harder than everyone. Yukk. I like that fact that my company pays me for overtime. Not because I make more money in crunch scenarios, but because it means I still know my family.

DigitalBomb says:

Everything you guys say is all great in theory but I actually work for Best Buy (in the Geek Squad precinct) here in Longview Texas and no one here is “racing” to move ahead in the company. Trust me, they show up, they do their job and they go home. We don’t make the schedules, the managers (all 8 of them) do. If we have a problem with scheduling and another employee is flexible enough, they might switch with you or take your hours if you want.

That’s it. There is no big issue. Also, all this stuff about “leaving in the middle of the day to watch a movie” is total bollocks. We can leave whenever we need to take a lunch and arn’t busy. Lunches for us are 30 minutes, no one can watch a feature film in 30 minutes.

Yes, Best Buy is changing. We’re changing from a company that sells product and happens to sell a bit of service to a service-driven company that happens to sell product. If you don’t understand this, then the trash garbled article you just read is right within your intelligence level and you should click the “Back” button on your browser right now to prevent yourself from learning something.

If you think I’m some top-level manager trying to make Best Buy seem great, I’m not. I’m a new employee who hasn’t even recieved training yet, and I already know more than “Mike” about corporate, policy, and Best Buy in general. And even the knowledge that I have is a million more times limited than Best Buy expects of its employees.

I’m not really sticking up for them, but in a way I am. Because they’re not some evil money-sucking corporation. Now, they do sell products and services, and that is the purpose of Best Buy. But simply selling a customer something is no fun, at Best Buy we like to have fun on the job — it makes for happier employees. Best Buy will differ from store to store and even customer experience will differ with the person, but no one is out to get you. People keep forgetting that these “big corporations” and “higher up CEOs” don’t actually work in the stores. We, the employees do. And we, the employees are regular people like you who know what bad customer experience is like and don’t want you to have to go through it too.

Stop bashing big corporations. Regular people work for them, and you might find out that they arn’t charging you near as much as you think. For isntance, we lose -$200 on every single laptop we sell. That means that after cost and delivery, our laptops cost us money to sell them to you. But if we didn’t have laptops, people wouldn’t think we’re fun or cool and would more than likely not shop with Best Buy.

This article is bogus Mike. I usually like your stuff but this time, like a few before, you did little to no research and have even less personal experience. If you’re a writer you should take the time and responsiblitiy to be professional. Don’t just bang your delapidated head on the keyboard and assume that the half-garbled trash that shows up on MS Word is publishable.


Ken (profile) says:

Re: Davis's comments

Davis I don’t think you got the point of the article. They are talking about Best Buys’ “corporate division.” This would the people that work in their HQ. NOT the stores that you work in.This obviously would not work in a retail store. This is more the executives and accountants that you will never meet unless you move way up the company ladder. Have you ever been to the companies HQ? Do you know how things work there? As you said you just started there and have not even been trained yet. But you know all about how the whole company works? There’s alot more to Best Buy than the store!

Greg says:

Re: Re:


You’re an idiot! The article applies to Best Buy CORPORATE, not the retail stores. Obviously every retail establishment has a corporate headquarters it reports to and receives instructions from. As was mentioned in the article, ROWE is a new program that has been instituted at the corporate offices in MN. While the guys at corporate are trying to figure out how they could roll it out to stores (if even possible) it is currently not available there.

Chris says:

i think this is a really good idea, i think its lame to get punished for takinga little personal time when your job is done correctly, how lame would it be if you got introuble at work for chatting on aim when your job is already done? honestly, do they expect you to stare at a wall when your all done with your work??? how in anyway is that prodective??, at least if you let the little things slide you have happy and motivated employee’s

DST says:

previous post

The thing is, Mike didn’t write the article he linked to, he just discussed it. And the article made it clear that it was the general corporate workforce, not the store employees, who had the flexible scheduling.

Not only that, but it’s clear YOU were the one who didn’t really comprehend Mike’s commentary. Take the time to actually read it before posting a long diatribe.

DigitalBomb says:

I wasn’t referring to only the article that Mike linked to but his as well. I read it, and needless to say comprehended it just a wee bit better than yourself.

And your comment (which is lacking in any argumentative value at all) doesn’t make up for the loss of sources or leigitimate and unbiased fact.

Like I said, usually I am a fan of Mike’s work and I let him know. But when it sucks, it’s only fair to point it out. Harshly, yes, but don’t jump on your high-horse about it. You didn’t even write the article, and I’d be willing to bet, know less about the situation than Mike or even Business Week’s writer.

Jo Mamma says:

Re: Re:

Digital Bomb…

No, I don’t think you did comprehend the article. TFA clearly states that management is working on a way to roll this out to the retail employees.

As a member of the “geek squad precinct”, you are a retail employee. Those IT folks that support Best Buy (website, systems, etc) are back-office. For now, ROWE applies to the back-office.

DigitalBomb says:

They weren’t sneaking around. Our CEO, whom many of our employees have met personally, is a nice guy. It’s almost like he’s a normal guy who just happens to own a multi-national business. If he didn’t know it’s probably because he’s working on the next best way for Best Buy to grow. He’s not you’re average CEO.

Greg says:

Re: Re:

Ummm…. the CEO doesn’t “own a multi-national corporation” nor does he OWN a national corporation. He might OWN a house or a car, but he doesn’t OWN Best Buy. The public does, with full control given the the Board of Directors who represent the public (comprized of normal shareholders and private equity holders). The CEO is hired by the Board and works for the shareholders… he doesn’t own jack.

poundsmack says:

ummm no

i have no idea what this person i talking about i worked for best buy for a long time and they only thing there managmnt and business plan is is. what is good for the company. they try to make as much money as possible off services by having there sales people buddy up with u like there yoru firends and cram things u dont need down your throat. especialy the departments in there that the revenew is primarily service based like geek squad and magnolia. and those managers and the store manager are always the iron fist. layed back wsa never ever in there vocabulary. they do attmept to pretend theya re like thta in the brain washing seminars they do with ther manditory and yes i said manditory morning meetings every 2 weeks and what not….. i quit due ot ethical reasons. and i havent looked back since….

Jo Mamma says:

Sweet Jesus...

Dear Best Buy retail employees,

Please do not read this article or the article linked to it by Mike, because your head will explode.

Understanding the difference between a RETAIL job and a back-office CORPORATE job seems to be excruciatingly difficult and nearly impossible for most of you guys. NOT EVERYBODY AT BEST BUY WORKS IN A STORE!

Please either stay in school or keep in touch with your former manager at McDonald’s.

|333173|3|_||3 says:

THis sounds a bit like the policy applied to the networks by the better admins at small-meduim networks, whereby a strich Acceptable Use Agreement is policed with both a blind eye to acceptable skiving, but then coming down on slackers like a ton of bricks. Some of the school admins I know work like that, since they will be ahppy to have the odd battle of SoF 2 bith the senoirs, but catch someone clogging up the switch while someone else is trying to work, then you get your account blocked. ditto the net, if you arent doing any harm, you cna visit here or /. or read the BOFH stories or do personal surfing, but porn or hacking is banned. (as is posting stories about the school, or shopping, since that can get the staff banned too)

GMan says:

Retail Employees

These comments are a great example of Retail caliber personnel versus Corporate personnel.

DigitalBomb (Davis): You need to read more and comment less, I haven’t been more embarrassed for a poster until I read your rant. When you get older or smarter and maybe actually get out of retail then maybe you should post on these subjects.

poundsmack: OMG!! If those are your writing skills, your gonna be in retail for a while, hit the books buddy.

As far as the article goes: I agree with the sane people here, the flex work environment works well. I’d love to hear some comments from actual Best Buy CORPORATE employees though.

WadeWolf says:

Hey DigitalBomb, I want you to come back after you are past the “new employee” phase and then comment.

I have been with Bestbuy for over 7 years now. All of you new hires get feed that line of bull and believe it for a while.

I also work in the geek squad as a DA and trust me ill never go back to being in the store again.

I hate to break this to you man but Best Buy is a company, company’s want one thing and that to be profitable. End of story.

Once you figure out how all they care about is there numbers and you are just one of them you will understand.

Sorry to bust your bubble bub.. but its the truth.

Lucas (user link) says:

I don't know about you... but home is where the wo

Due to a lack of interruptions, I can get twice as much work done at home as I do in the office. And somehow, beyond doing twice as much work in what seems like less time, I also get the laundry done, do the dishes, sweep the floors, etc.

It’s always nice on a work-at-home Friday to have all my work in order and a clean apartment. Since my computer is right across the room from me, I can also be get to work in around 10 seconds after getting up while working from home.

Vincent Clement says:

Chaos is good

This type of “chaos” will work only if managers and supervisors are willing to hold their employees responsible. If an employee is not meeting his deadlines, quotas or whatever standard they are supposed to meet, then it is up to the manager to have a discussion with that employee.

The problem is that some managers would rather avoid that confrontation. Instead they complain to upper management that “things are not working” and that “things need to change”. Then, something that works almost all the time and is liked by the employees is changed to something that will likely be broken and not liked by the employees, all because some managers could not manage.

Dan Greenfield (user link) says:

Best Buy corporate culture change

This adoption of flexible work schedules parallels changes in how we communicate on the job.

I am not just talking about cell phones and blackberries that untether us from the office. Communications through blogs and wikis reflect a greater tolerance for decentralization and personalization. Workers have more freedom in what they can say and where they say it. No one is looking over your shoulder everyone time you post something. No one is editing all your comments.

For many tech companies, flexible hours like flexible communications is a no brainer. The challenge is for those who cling to the old way of doing work. Flexibility, however, is not everyone. What is best for Best Buy is not necessarily best for other companies.

Mike Hull says:

New philosophy at best buy.

I think the beauty of this sytem is the trust invested into employees. The new approach shown by management indicates that they trust the employee’s judgement. Instead of trying to micromanage every aspect of the work day, each employee becomes his or her own expert on how to best get the job done. This is excellent because so often the workers have good ideas on how things should be done, but they are ignored by management. How strange, because these workers know more about their job than anyone else.

David Carr says:


You made a comment about losing $200 for each laptop. True. However this because Best Buy’s main business is not selling laptops it selling credit cards. I would be willing to pay a “little” more for the laptop if I didn’t get financing shoved down my throat every time I walk in the door. To be fair it is not only Best Buy. Walmart and everyone else has been reading from the same book. Retail sales companies need to take a lesson from the recently failed banking industry. Widespread, unsolicited financing offers may give increased revenue for a time but if there is one little hiccup in the economy they are in for trouble.

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